Owner of quarantine hotel that terminated 143 workers during pandemic faces boycott
Vancouver, B.C. – Amid months of protests and calls to move out, the federal government has ended its quarantine program at Pacific Gateway Hotel and relocated to another site. Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) which oversees the federal quarantine program is no longer using the hotel effective February 1. Pacific Gateway workers had urged the Trudeau government to stop subsidizing the hotel after 143 long-term staff were terminated.
The workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, met with MPs, testified before parliamentary committees, and held protests urging federal ministers and PHAC to end the government’s use of the hotel after 70% of the hotel staff, mostly women and immigrants, were terminated. The mass firings during the hotel’s temporary use as a federal quarantine facility upended economic security for workers already hard-hit by the pandemic.
Workers went on strike in May 2021 in response to the hotel’s mass terminations and efforts to erode living wage jobs during a public health crisis. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, NDP Health Critic Don Davies and other NDP and Conservative MPs had publicly questioned federal ministers over the government’s use of Pacific Gateway.
“Finally, the federal government has heard our calls to move out of Pacific Gateway. We asked MPs across the political spectrum and PHAC to stop bankrolling the hotel. I worked there for 28 years, but the owners took advantage of the COVID-19 crisis and terminated most of us. That’s not right. No one should spend money at a hotel that treats us like we’re disposable,” said Jillian Louie, a former Pacific Gateway server.
PHAC took over the hotel in March 2020 under a quarantine order enacted by former federal Health Minister, Patty Hajdu. The government displaced some hotel staff when they brought in contractors. Over 140 workers were later terminated instead of being allowed to return as regular business operations resume. A hotel housekeeper filed a human rights complaint against Pacific Gateway over the adverse impact of the firings on women, particularly women of colour.
UNITE HERE Local 40 is urging prospective customers to boycott Pacific Gateway by eating, sleeping, and meeting at alternative venues. The B.C. Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress have urged affiliates and the traveling public to not do business with the hotel.