Vancouver, BC — Yesterday, Vancouver City Council passed a motion to support laid-off hotel workers’ right to return to their jobs. The motion, sponsored by Councillor Jean Swanson, received support across the political spectrum with all councillors present voting in favour and one abstention. The City of Vancouver joins the City of Burnaby, Victoria City Council, and New Westminster City Council in passing similar motions.
The motion calls on Council to affirm that people should not lose their livelihoods due to the pandemic and to support the BC Unequal Women campaign. Council will request the Mayor write to the Ministers of Labour and Tourism expressing Council’s support for the right for laid-off workers to return to their jobs when the pandemic eases. The motion also calls on the Mayor to write to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association and Union of BC Municipalities encouraging them to host future conventions in venues that respect workers’ rights.
The motion not only indicates City support for laid-off hotel workers hit hard by the pandemic; it also sends a powerful message to hotels that use COVID-19 as an excuse to fire their employees that they could risk a loss in business if they do not treat workers fairly. City support for hotel workers’ right to return to their jobs has strong ramifications for large conventions such as UBCM that utilize a number of downtown hotels.
The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the hospitality industry throughout the province and disproportionately affected women and people of colour, many of whom work at hotels in Vancouver. BC hotels are using the pandemic as an excuse to fire their long-term workforce, roll back wages, and eliminate pension and benefits. Hotel workers launched the BC Unequal Women campaign to call attention to the hotel industry’s attack on jobs predominantly held by women, especially racialized women. Hotel workers urged Council to pass the motion and support those hardest hit by the pandemic.
“The Vancouver City Council sent a strong message today that hotel workers deserve to return to their pre-pandemic jobs when business recovers. All levels of government should be doing more to ensure that women and racialized people don’t get left behind in the COVID-19 recovery. That’s why I’m calling on other political leaders to join us to make sure hotel workers do not lose their livelihoods because of the pandemic,” said Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson who sponsored the motion.
“I’m thrilled that Vancouver City Council did the right thing and supported BC’s unequal women. At a time when hotels are using the pandemic to fire long-time workers, we need our political leaders to do more to protect our livelihoods during the COVID-19 recovery.” said Naden Abenes, a room attendant of Hyatt Regency Vancouver for 13 years and a Vancouver resident.
At a time when the province is providing over $130 million in new money to aid economic recovery in the tourism sector, hotels across Vancouver such as Pan Pacific Hotel at Canada Place and Fairmont Waterfront are using the pandemic to terminate long-term workers and take back economic gains made by women and people of colour who have long served the hotel. Hotel workers are urging elected officials at all levels of government to do more to support economically vulnerable workers hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.
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.