Vancouver, BC — B.C. hotel housekeepers from Hilton Metrotown, Pan Pacific Vancouver, and Pacific Gateway, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, are inviting Fairmont Hot Springs Resort CEO Vivek Sharma to meet the province’s Unequal Women and clean rooms for a day, in response to sexist comments he made earlier this month. At the B.C. Tourism and Hospitality Conference in Richmond on March 9, Sharma asked women in the audience to stand and be honoured for International Women’s Day. Then he told them to “go clean some rooms and do some dishes.”
“I’m extremely offended,” said locked out Hilton Metrotown housekeeper Cecilia Rutter who served the hotel for 21 years. “It’s clear Mr. Sharma doesn’t realize that women are the backbone of B.C.’s tourism and hospitality industry.Does he think our hard work and our many years of service to guests is a joke? Does he think we’re unequal to him? As a single mom, my housekeeping job helped me raise my son and I’m proud to be fighting on the picket line now for a better future for my co-workers and all women who work in hospitality.”
“On behalf of B.C.’s Unequal Women who were terminated by hotel employers in the pandemic and women hotel workers who face precarity back on the job, we invite Mr. Sharma to meet us and learn how he can make the industry a ‘safer place’ for women and other underrepresented groups,” said Naden Abenes, a housekeeper at Hyatt Regency Vancouver who ran in last year’s federal election as the NDP candidate for Vancouver Quadra. “That’s what he said in his apology he wanted to do, so we’re giving him a chance to make amends. The best way is by meeting the very women whom he degraded and see what it’s like firsthand to be a housekeeper. I’m sure he’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of women in B.C.’s hospitality industry once he walks a mile in our shoes.”
UNITE HERE Local 40 launched a website last spring, B.C. Unequal Women, to call attention to how hotels have used the pandemic to roll back the clock on women’s economic security. Hilton Vancouver Metrotown, Pan Pacific Vancouver, and Pacific Gateway hotels terminated their employees over the course of Covid. Many of the workers affected were long-term and women of colour.
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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.