Women of Colour More Likely to Face Permanent Job Loss in Hotels During Pandemic, New Report Reveals

Vancouver Women Leaders, UNITE HERE Local 40 Release Unequal Women Report

Vancouver, B.C. —  Today, Vancouver women leaders representing municipal, women’s, and labour groups joined UNITE HERE Local 40 in a press conference to release a new report: Unequal Women – Report on the Impact of Pandemic Terminations on Women of Colour in B.C.’s Hospitality Industry. The report investigates job losses at a sample group of hotels across BC and reveals that women of colour were more likely to be permanently laid off. The data showed that women of colour suffered the highest percentage of jobs lost among women overall at Pan Pacific Vancouver. Despite millions in government subsidies given to employers, they are under no obligation to ensure laid-off workers reclaim their jobs as business recovers. The report outlines recommendations for the province and federal government to ensure a fair recovery for workers.

UNITE HERE Local 40 collected data from 5 BC hotels — Pan Pacific Vancouver, Pacific Gateway, Hilton Metrotown, Coast Bastion, Coast Victoria Harbourside — to determine the impact of the recent wave of terminations on women of colour. Among the key takeaways were: 

  • Women accounted for the majority of workers terminated at each hotel.
  • In 4 of the 5 hotels, women of colour comprised the majority of terminated women.
  • Among terminated women, the highest rate of jobs lost by women of colour was at Pan Pacific Vancouver. 
  • The largest total number of jobs lost by women was 90 jobs at the Pacific Gateway Hotel, which was taken over by the federal government as a quarantine site in March 2020 through to the present.  Approximately 73% of women fired are racialized. 

“Losing my job of seven years at the Pan Pacific has caused me more hardship than I’d ever imagined. I thought I would be there until I retired. While I’ve found another job, I’m earning less than I made at the hotel. I’m still struggling to pay the bills. We women built the hotel industry on our backs. It’s time the government ‘builds back better’ with a feminist recovery that includes women like me,” said Stephanie Dan, a room attendant and single mother who, along with nearly 100 co-workers, was terminated at Pan Pacific Vancouver during the pandemic.

This year, Statistics Canada reported record-high job vacancies, particularly in industries such as food, tourism, and retail. However, women terminated from the hospitality industry are fighting to return to their jobs at their original pay and work conditions. Women of colour, particularly, are over-represented in low-waged, precarious work, and have borne the brunt of pandemic terminations in hotels. 

The BC government needs to do the right thing here and stand up for racialized women. Stop the discrimination against racialized women by these hotels. Stop allowing the hotels to push women into poverty. The solution is easy and costs virtually nothing: change the Employment Standards Act to extend recall rights to when the pandemic is over,” said Jean Swanson, Vancouver City Councillor.

“The Single Mothers’ Alliance for Gender & Economic Justice stands behind Unite Here Local 40 and the recommendations released in the report today. We will not stand by while hard-working single mothers and women lose their jobs to pandemic profiteering by hotels in BC. We call on government to implement a feminist economic pandemic recovery that immediately reinstates these women’s jobs and addresses the issue of much-needed job security for women through recall protection for any worker laid off during the pandemic,” said Viveca Ellis, Provincial Organizer at Single Mothers Alliance for Gender and Economic Justice.

“We know that women are already overrepresented in informal labour that, because unregulated, make them more susceptible to exploitation and violence. Women Transforming Cities is calling out how these conditions impact the quality of life of racialized working women in our city. We hope that with the release of the Unequal Women report, we will restore the voice and value of women who have given so much to our communities. This is Women Transforming Cities’ commitment as an organization, as we push policymakers to implement the recommendations outlined in the report,” said Mahtab Laghaei, Campaign Lead at Women Transforming Cities.

“VDLC stands in solidarity with Unite Here Local 40. The Unequal Women report exposes the ugly agenda of the hotel industry to destroy sustainable jobs and replace them with low-paid, precarious work. Indigenous and racialized women are the backbone of the service sector where most job losses have occurred during the pandemic. This is an urgent call to support our union and non-union sisters, demand that the government hold the hotel industry accountable for the billions in welfare dollars they have received, and work together to prevent the hotel industry from impoverishing more families and communities.” said Seema Ahluwalia, Member at Large of the Vancouver and District Labour Council, and Chair of the VDLC Anti-racism committee. 

UNITE HERE Local 40’s report recommends that the BC government should follow the lead of other governments to ensure that no employer can terminate long-term staff as a result of the pandemic. Federal leaders should condition employers’ pandemic subsidies on worker retention to ensure laid-off workers have priority over their replacements.

For additional information, please contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, sfung@unitehere40.com, Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785, mtravis@unitehere.org


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.