As of 5:00AM Pacific Gateway Workers are on strike. Women leading strike say, “Trudeau promised a ‘Feminist Recovery’ but won’t protect the women at the hotel he controls.”
WHAT: UNITE HERE Local 40 hotel members – room attendants, front desk agents, cooks, servers and more – are on strike at Pacific Gateway Hotel at Vancouver International Airport.
WHEN: Strike commences on May 3, 2021; 5:00AM
WHERE: Pacific Gateway Hotel, 3500 Cessna Drive, Richmond, BC
WHO: UNITE HERE Local 40 hotel workers and union representatives will be available for comment.
WHY: After months of watching their employer use the pandemic to fire long-term staff and roll-back the economic security of women and immigrant workers, Pacific Gateway Hotel workers are on strike. Workers are striking over hotel management’s refusal to commit to return long-term staff to their jobs when business recovers. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promises a feminist recovery, a hotel taken over by his government is destroying living wage jobs that enabled women and immigrant workers to join the middle class.
Pacific Gateway has terminated 103 workers, 42 of them this weekend – and nearly two-thirds of those fired are women. The hotel made clear its intentions to fire all those laid-off more than 12 months – the vast majority of its pre-Covid workforce. The average Pacific Gateway worker has worked at the hotel for more than a decade; some with over forty years of service.
Workers were displaced when the federal government took over the hotel last year under a quarantine order and brought in the Red Cross to perform their duties. The federal government has extended its contract several times and has looked the other way as hard-hit workers, many of them women from the South Asian and Chinese communities, pay the price.
“Prime Minster Trudeau, I was fired this past weekend after 27 years of service. Is this what you call a feminist recovery? I have 3 girls – one in Grade 5, one in high school, and another in college. I raised them on this job. Pacific Gateway is outright attacking women and our federal government is doing nothing to stop it. You said you would prioritize women in Canada’s economic recovery — but you’ve failed us. That’s why I’m on the picket line today with women like me. We’re not going to give up on everything we worked so hard for,” said Pardeep Thandi, a room attendant who served the hotel for 27 years until she was permanently laid-off this weekend.
Hotel management is using the temporary COVID-19 crisis to propose permanent changes to undermine job security and make the work more precarious. The employer wants a 7-year contract that would reduce many workers’ hourly pay to minimum wage. That would mean as much as $2.00 to $6.50/hour less for servers, hostesses, baristas, dishwashers, and others. The employer also wants to eliminate workers’ current union health and pension benefits, force them to share tips with management, allow for subcontracting and make changes that would allow the hotel to circumvent overtime, eliminate paid time off and severance, among other cuts.
The hotel’s demands are very similar to those made by Hilton Metrotown which locked out its hotel staff earlier this month. Both hotels are represented by Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR), which issued a lockout notice last week to 1,200 hospitality workers who work at 32 other hotels, motels, and liquor establishments across British Columbia.
The federal government has given the hotel industry billions in public subsidies and other relief while the industry turns back the clock for women and racialized workers who are its backbone. Pacific Gateway Hotel, owned by Surrey-based PHI Hotel Group has taken advantage of the federal wage subsidy program, but unclear whether any workers benefitted.
UNITE HERE Local 40 is a labour union representing workers in the hotel, food service and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.