Vancouver, BC – On International Women’s Day, UNITE HERE Local 40 held a press conference and rally at Jack Poole Plaza to announce a new campaign highlighting the impact of pandemic firings on British Columbia’s women hotel workers. The campaign – Unequal Women: 19th Century Treatment in 21st Century British Columbia – focuses on how B.C.’s hotel industry is refusing to bring back the women who clean hotel rooms, cook meals, and serve guests as the industry recovers.
Women, particularly women of colour, constitute the majority of hourly wage workers in the hotel sector and bear the brunt of pandemic firings. Hotels across B.C. including Hilton Vancouver Metrotown, Pacific Gateway, Pan Pacific Vancouver and many others have refused to commit to bring women back to their jobs as business returns. Instead, mass pandemic firings are being used to strip away economic gains made by women who served their hotels for decades. Women will face a smoother recovery if they are able to return to their pre-pandemic jobs.
“I’m a single mom with two kids, ages 12 and 13. It’s been a very stressful time figuring out how to take care of my family. My hotel was taken over by the federal government to quarantine travellers when the pandemic hit. The hotel is firing my laid-off co-workers and threatening to get rid of most of us by the end of March. The government should be doing more to make sure we don’t lose our jobs. We can’t let the hotel industry set women back to an earlier era,” said Elisa Cardona, laid-off hostess at the Pacific Gateway Hotel.
For Jerty Gaa, a public area attendant who served Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel for 11 years before being fired, the impact of the pandemic was devastating: “I thought I was going to retire here – but the hotel used the pandemic as an excuse to get rid of us. I’m 54 years old so it’s hard for me to start again. I just want my job back when all this is over. What is the government doing to help us keep our jobs?”
Zailda Chan, UNITE HERE Local 40 President, said: “The hotel industry’s actions tell women they don’t matter. They want to keep women unequal – because unequal women in the hotel industry have no economic power and no voice. But this is the 21st century, not the 19th century. Women made BC’s hospitality industry successful – and women will fight for the right to be returned to their jobs.”
UNITE HERE Local 40 is the hospitality workers’ union and represents members in the hotel, food service, construction camps, and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.