Vancouver, B.C. — Today, workers from the federal quarantine hotel, Pacific Gateway, held a press conference to announce they have filed 72-hour strike notice and can take strike action at any time. Workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, filed the strike notice after Pacific Gateway terminated another round of long-term workers. The hotel, which was taken over by the federal government last spring, plans to eliminate most of its workforce, many of them immigrant women with up to 45 years on the job.
Pacific Gateway tried to block hotel workers’ right to file strike notice, but the BC Labour Relations Board dismissed the hotel’s challenges. This month, the hotel terminated nearly four dozen workers. Another 100 workers are expected to be terminated this month.
Workers have sought an agreement from the hotel that they be returned to their jobs as industry conditions improve. Despite the pending vaccine rollout and signs the industry will begin to recover this year, the hotel has refused. The hotel’s actions will disproportionately impact older immigrant women from South Asian, Chinese, and other communities who clean after, cook for, and serve hotel guests. Some of the workers were displaced when the federal government contracted with the Red Cross to replace hotel workers and perform similar job duties.
While the government recognizes that women and immigrants have borne the brunt of the pandemic, there has been no action to prevent hotel workers from losing their jobs on the government’s watch.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have one question for you: when we go on strike, will you cross our picket line, or will you join us in saying ‘no’ to unequal women in the hotel industry? I’m a single mom with two kids, ages 12 and 13 and about to lose my job. It’s clear the hotel doesn’t care about us – many of us women supporting families. The hotel wants to get rid of us and replace us with new hires at minimum wage,” said Elisa Cardona, laid-off hostess who has worked at Pacific Gateway for 7 years.
“Why is the federal government allowing this to happen? The hotel wants to fire women who have worked at this hotel for over 40 years. There are so many of us who have families to support. We worked hard to make these good jobs and now we are about to lose everything. How many more of us are going to lose our jobs before Prime Minister Trudeau stands with us?” said Pardeep Thandi, laid-off room attendant for 27 years at the Pacific Gateway Hotel.
“Our federal and provincial governments look away while the hotel industry takes advantage of hotel workers – mostly women of colour – time and time again. We won’t tolerate that. We have to stand up and fight back to make sure every hotel worker gets her job back when the industry recovers,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40.
UNITE HERE Local 40 is the hospitality workers’ union and represents members in the hotel, food service and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.