Press Release: Hotel Worker Reports Discrimination on the Basis of Sex and Race at Federal Quarantine Site

Human rights complaint filed against Pacific Gateway Hotel

Vancouver, B.C. — In response to mass firings at Pacific Gateway, a federal quarantine facility, a hotel housekeeper has filed a human rights complaint against the hotel on behalf of herself and 89 other women for sex and racial discrimination. The complaint alleges that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, terminations at the hotel disparately impacted women, and women of colour, while men’s jobs were more likely to be protected.  

Women, especially women of colour, were disproportionately impacted by Pacific Gateway’s actions, according to the complaint. The federal quarantine hotel fired 142 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those fired, 90 are women and the majority of them are racialized. Pacific Gateway also terminated 90% of their housekeeping staff, which is overwhelmingly female. While hotel management targeted women workers, they disproportionately protected men’s jobs. The impact of the firings culminated in 74% of all women in the workplace being terminated, while proportionally more men were retained. With more terminations imminent this August, Pacific Gateway is on track to reduce the representation of women in its workforce by almost 20%. 

Pacific Gateway was taken over by the federal government for use as a quarantine site last year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The Trudeau government displaced laid-off hotel workers, primarily hotel housekeepers, when they contracted out housekeeping to the Red Cross. The federal quarantine hotel refuses to return workers to their jobs when the pandemic passes.

“What my hotel did to me and my co-workers was racist and sexist. The Pacific Gateway has taken advantage of the pandemic to get rid of long-term women workers – many of us women who immigrated to Canada. We made this hotel successful. I raised my kids on this job. Is this what our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls a feminist recovery?” said Kiranjit Dhillon, a fired Pacific Gateway housekeeper who served the hotel for 17 years.

The complaint filed on behalf of the women is seeking reinstatement of all group members to their jobs at Pacific Gateway, compensation for lost wages and injury to dignity, an order against the hotel to stop the discrimination and an admission of their discriminatory behaviour, and steps taken to address racism and sexism at the hotel. This complaint comes after Pacific Gateway workers went on strike in early May. UNITE HERE Local 40 represents workers at the hotel.

For additional information, please contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785, [email protected]

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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.

NEW REPORT: Federal Government Subsidies Reward Hotel Industry Intent on Shedding Staff, Undercuts Pathway to “Feminist Recovery”

UNITE HERE Canada                                                                                                                                                          For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                      May 24, 2021

VANCOUVER – Hotel workers who lost their jobs due to pandemic firings were not helped by the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and may not benefit from the Liberal Government’s new federal hiring subsidy, the Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP), proposed in the 2021 Budget.  Instead, federal subsidies may reward bad corporate behaviour as they bypass hard-hit hospitality workers, primarily women and people of colour, according to a new report by UNITE HERE Canada, Inhospitable: How Hotel Employers Take Government Relief and Leave Workers out in the Cold.

Despite hotel industry pleas for government subsidies and other economic relief to save workers’ jobs, hotel employers have shed much of their staff anyway.  With unprecedented levels of job loss in the sector, the report questions why employers who failed to use CEWS to keep their workforce intact, or who eliminated much of their staff rather than commit to retain them, should be eligible for the new hiring subsidy.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the new hiring subsidy, CRHP, along with a proposed extension of CEWS during her budget speech. The Liberal government is proposing to extend CEWS with a new clawback provision for publicly traded companies that increase executive pay while using the program.  However, there are no clawbacks proposed for private companies who abuse CEWS.  It is unclear whether there will be any restrictions or clawbacks for companies that abuse the federal hiring subsidy.

The report provides a list of hotels like Pacific Gateway, currently a federal quarantine site, Sheraton Ottawa, Hilton Vancouver Metrotown and others that tapped CEWS, terminated staff or have not committed to bring workers back.  Many of the owners – real estate developers, wealthy investors, and large private corporations – are seeking drastic economic rollbacks from workers. Some of these hotel owners could be eligible for the new hiring subsidy.

While Minister Freeland has centered the 2021 budget as a feminist economic response to the COVID-crisis, the government is offering public subsidies to hotel employers who undercut the ability of its largely female and racialized workforce to participate in an inclusive recovery.  The hotel industry has lobbied for relief in the name of protecting workers’ jobs to secure CEWS extensions, the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP), and the new CRHP.

Across the border, other government bodies are taking proactive steps to help workers retain their jobs.  The report points to several U.S. jurisdictions, including the State of California, that have adopted “worker recall” laws that will allow workers affected by the pandemic to return to their jobs as the work becomes available again.

To ensure hotel workers are included in the economic recovery, the report recommends the federal government: 1) design the CRHP so that it is directed to employers who rehire their staff before hiring outside replacements; 2) expand CEWS clawbacks to cover private employers who use mass pandemic firings to replace and undermine workers economic security, and 3) work with provinces to explore worker recall protections for workers who experienced job loss due to the pandemic.

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Contacts:

Michelle Travis, [email protected], 778-960-9785

Daniel Janvier, [email protected], 647-410-5862

Press Release: Workers testify before House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, Urge Federal Government to Stop Subsidizing Pacific Gateway Hotel

Vancouver, BC – Hotel workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, were invited to testify before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on Friday. They urged the Government to live up to its promise of a feminist recovery and stop spending public money at Pacific Gateway Hotel, which has operated as a federal quarantine site since last year.

The Government has not disclosed how much they are paying the hotel, which recently fired over 140 workers.  Nearly two-thirds of those fired are women.  The Government displaced some of the workers when they brought in the Red Cross to perform their work.

While the hotel’s owners are receiving public money to operate as a quarantine site, they also appear in the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) Registry. The owners did not use the federal wage subsidy program to retain its laid-off workers.  The companies named in the CEWS Registry are PHI Hotel Group and Van-Air Holdings Ltd.

Elisa Cardona, a laid-off hostess who worked at Pacific Gateway for seven years told the Finance Committee: “Hotel management used the federal takeover as an excuse to terminate me and 140 of my co-workers.  That’s over 70 per cent of our staff.  Prime Minister Trudeau promised us a feminist recovery. But women are bearing the brunt of firings at our hotel on the government’s watch. These were living wage jobs that allowed us to support our families.”

“Mr. Trudeau, stop giving millions of dollars to our owners when we are losing our jobs,” said Kiran Dhillon, a room attendant with seventeen years on the job and was terminated alongside most of her co-workers this month.

Hotel workers want action from the Government to stop using or directing public money to Pacific Gateway. UNITE HERE also urged the government to restrict companies from tapping the proposed federal hiring subsidy, the Canada Recovery Hiring Program, or CEWS, if they eliminate their staff to replace them for less.

The House Finance Committee is reviewing the proposed 2021 Budget, which includes the proposed federal hiring subsidy for businesses, an extension of CEWS, and other COVID-related relief programs.

Workers at Pacific Gateway Hotel went on strike on May 3, 2021 to protest mass firings at the hotel.

Contact: Michelle Travis, [email protected], 778-960-9785

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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. Local 40 is affiliated with UNITE HERE Canada.

Hilton Metrotown, Lufthansa Named in Lawsuit Filed by Protester Struck by Bus / Workers Launch Website Calling On Lufthansa’s Flight Crew to Stop Crossing Picket Line at Hilton Metrotown

Vancouver, B.C. — A protester hit by a bus carrying Lufthansa flight crew across the picket line has filed a lawsuit against Lufthansa and the Hilton Metrotown. Lufthansa crew members had crossed the picket line for weeks ahead of the shocking incident despite Hilton Metrotown workers’ protests to stop. Now, the workers are launching a website — www.lufthansastreikbrecher.org — to call on Lufthansa’s flight crew unions to stop crossing their picket line. Lufthansa flight crews are using the hotel as a stopover accommodation, where they have been intercepted by locked out workers leafleting, chanting, and holding German signs and banners. 

The new website features video footage of the bus, which was carrying Lufthansa crew members, barreling into the picket line and hitting a protester. A security guard can be heard yelling, “Run them over!” The protestor is seeking damages including $10,000 for pain and suffering, over the motives of the hotel, bus driver, and security for driving him over, and costs incurred from the incident. The defendants in the lawsuit are Charter Bus Lines of BC Limited, Lufthansa, Excalibur Security Services, and Hilton Metrotown.

“We are outraged that Lufthansa flight crews were in the bus that was encouraged by hotel security to run us over. It is a long-standing tradition to honour the picket lines of other unions, and solidarity doesn’t end at the border. We’re calling on Lufthansa crews to stop staying at this hotel immediately,” said Sergio Moyer, locked out Guest Services lead at Hilton Metrotown.

Hilton Metrotown locked out workers on April 16, 2021 after firing 97 staff. The employer has refused to commit to return long-term workers back to their jobs as business recovers. The British Columbia Federation of Labour representing 500,000 union members has issued a boycott of Hilton Vancouver Metrotown. Hotel workers are entering the 6th week of the lockout.

For additional information, please contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785, [email protected]

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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.

PRESS RELEASE: Hilton Metrotown Loses Arbitration Over Group Severance Exemption; Fired Hotel Workers Entitled to Greater Payouts

Vancouver, BC — Workers terminated from Hilton Metrotown are now entitled to receive greater severance payouts after the hotel lost a key arbitration that has implications for the broader hotel industry. Hilton Metrotown terminated 97 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and sought an exemption to the Employment Standards Act to avoid larger severance payouts under group termination rules. The arbitrator has ruled against the hotel and found they are not exempt.

Hilton Metrotown terminated the workers, the majority of them women and racialized, in recent weeks before locking-out its remaining staff on April 16. The hotel applied for an exemption from severance provisions under section 65 of the Employment Standards Act, which allows for exemptions due to the “impossibility” of performing employment contracts due to unforeseen events and circumstances. The arbitrator rejected their appeal on the grounds that the hotel is still operating and employing people, which ultimately proves that it is not impossible for Hilton Metrotown to comply with their obligations to perform employment contracts.

The Union estimates the hotel may owe workers hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional severance pay. This decision has implications for the hospitality industry—and beyond—as other employers, like Pan Pacific Vancouver and Four Points Sheraton Vancouver Airport, have tried to use COVID-19 as an excuse to skirt their severance obligations to workers.

Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40: “Hilton Metrotown will not get away with using the pandemic to cheat workers out of their full severance payments. This decision sends a strong warning to other hotels: do not use COVID-19 as an excuse to avoid your severance liabilities. If you plan to terminate your long-term workers, be prepared to pay workers what they are owed.”

For additional information, please contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785, [email protected]

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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.