Union urges province to disqualify hotel owners who eliminated staff during pandemic
Vancouver, B.C. — UNITE HERE Local 40 is urging Premier John Horgan and Tourism Minister Melanie Mark to tighten eligibility rules for hotels seeking property tax relief through a new pandemic relief fund. In a letter to the Premier and Minister Mark, the Union urges the province to disqualify hotel employers who terminated workers during the pandemic from eligibility and asks whether the province will grant property tax relief to hotel owners that use tax havens.
On Friday, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture announced a new $15 million relief program, the Tourism Accommodation and Commercial Recreation Relief Fund. One of the three funding streams will provide large hotel owners with a property tax break of 25%, up to a maximum of $500,000. To be eligible, hotel owners must have employed 150 workers or more in 2019. However, some hotels that stand to benefit eliminated staff during the pandemic.
Pacific Gateway Hotel near Vancouver Airport employed more than 200 workers before the pandemic. Hotel management terminated over 140 workers last year rather than commit to return them to their jobs when business returns. The hotel is co-owned by PHI Hotel Group and Van-Air Holdings Ltd, an offshore company based in the Bahamas, a tax haven jurisdiction.
The Union also wants to ensure major B.C. hotel owners like Westmont Hospitality Group will be ineligible based on current rules that require majority owners to be B.C. residents. Westmont affiliates own Pan Pacific Vancouver, Fairmont Waterfront, and JW Marriott Parq, each of which terminated workers during the pandemic. Westmont is based in Mississauga and Houston.
“Rather the padding the bottom lines of wealthy corporations and developers that own hotels, the province should ensure government funded relief is directed to employers who commit to return pre-pandemic staff to their jobs. Otherwise, the province will be financially rewarding wealthy employers who undercut the most vulnerable during a public health crisis. Women, particularly women of colour, continue to bear the economic brunt of pandemic job losses in B.C.’s hotel sector,” said Zailda Chan, president of UNITE HERE Local 40.