Union Calls to Boycott Nanaimo Golf Club


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(Nanaimo, BC) Unite Here Local 40 is calling for a boycott of the Nanaimo Golf Club after two dozen food and beverage workers have been locked out by the Club for over nine months. Local 40 is BC’s Hospitality Workers’ union and represents the locked out workers.  “January is the month that Nanaimo Golf Club Members are renewing their memberships”, explains Shelly Ervin, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 40, “and while many Nanaimo businesses and organizations are respecting our picket line, we are asking golf club members not to renew their membership as well as prospective members to use other local clubs until after a settlement is reached.”

To help raise awareness of this issue, Local 40 and the Nanaimo, Duncan & District Labour Council have partnered to post a billboard on the Island Highway northbound into Nanaimo from
Ladysmith. The message is a short and to the point “Nanaimo Golf Club Doesn’t Think You Care”.  Stephanie Sparkes, one of the locked out workers, explains that “although the Golf Club seems to think that the community doesn’t care about us, our experience is that they care a lot”. She says that throughout the lockout people have been dropping by with food, honking as they drive by, and some local residents have hosted fundraisers to help out financially. “What we are hoping for is that residents of Nanaimo move one step further and start showing the company how much Nanaimo cares about workers and about good jobs, including those in the service sector!” says Sparkes.  Both Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog and Nanaimo MP, Sheila Malcomson have taken the time to meet with workers, hear their concerns directly and show their support by dropping by the picket line. Krog feels that this issue matters to the community. “Nanaimo wants this settled, and binding arbitration is the only sensible course”.

Workers are calling for Nanaimo residents to support the boycott of the Club, and to speak to friends, family and neighbours asking them not to renew their Golf Club memberships, and not to plan events at the club until these locked out members are back at work.

For more information:

Kirsty Peterson, Local 40 Communications

604-619-2934 or [email protected]

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Coast Plaza Members Ratify 3-year Contract

Is a Canada Revenue Agency landlord avoiding taxes via offshore havens?

Published by the National Observer, Written by Bruce Livesey in News | October 15th 2015
Canada’s 2015 Federal Election Campaign

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rents office space from a Vancouver-based property developer – a company that exploits offshore tax havens in Lichtenstein, the British Virgin Islands and Channel Islands.
Larco Investments Ltd. owns three buildings in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton where they rent office space to the CRA. Larco purchased the buildings from the federal government in 2007.

Yet evidence has emerged that Larco takes advantage of offshore tax havens.

“It’s interesting to us that as a government landlord, that’s also the landlord of the CRA, when the CRA is supposed to be going after this (offshore) stuff… it just raises questions about whether the CRA is aware,” says Michelle Travis, research co-ordinator of UNITE HERE Canada, the hospitality and hotel worker’s union which represents workers employed by Larco.
govt_buildings_rented_by_craLeft: Canada Place building in Alberta. Right: Harry Hayes building in Calgary
UNITE HERE stumbled upon Larco’s use of offshore tax havens while researching the company.

The Larco-CRA case is symbolic of the Harper government’s track record of allowing billions of dollars of potentially taxable corporate monies to flee to offshore tax havens. In 1990, only $11-billion was flowing from Canadian corporations to offshore tax havens: today this sum is almost $200-billion a year and growing. An estimated $8-billion is also lost annually through tax evasion.

These sums suggest that if the Harper government was more diligent in tracking offshore money or plugging holes in the tax code, they would not have to run deficits, impose austerity measures, raid the EI surplus or sell its shares in General Motors — while also funding health care, education and infrastructure.

“It’s a horrendous problem,” says Senator Percy Downe, Jean Chrétien’s former chief of staff, who has spent the past nine years pursuing the offshore tax haven issue.

“If we collected what we’re owed to the government… there’d be additional money to fund programs that are being cut. And taxes could be lower or remain lower.”

In fact, Alain Deneault, a sociologist at the Université du Québec and author of the recent book Canada: A New Tax Haven, maintains “[The Conservatives] are offshore-friendly actually. They don’t see it as something wrong officially.”

Lalji family and their offshore tax structures

Larco is a privately-held company owned by the Lalji family, one of Canada’s wealthiest clans, sitting on a fortune estimated at $2.6-billion. Run by three brothers – Amin, Mansoor and Shiraz – the Laljis fled Uganda in the 1970s during the dictatorship of Idi Amin, settling in BC.

There they founded a burgeoning real estate empire, owning hotels and retail outlets such as the Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver.

The Laljis are notoriously private and media shy – the Globe and Mail’s business magazine once listed them among Canada’s “hermit kings” – although they haven’t escaped controversy entirely.
Right: Mansoor Lalji.

lalji_-_mansoor_shirazLeft: Michael Fortier, then minister of Public Works, left, and Amin Lalji

In 2007, Shiraz Lalji was criticized for destroying one of architect Arthur Erickson’s earliest single-family dwellings in BC – the David Graham house.

“We were upset,” says Philip Boname, president of the Arthur Erickson Foundation, who said Shiraz never responded to appeals to change his mind.In 2007, the Laljis paid $1.4-billion to buy seven federal buildings the Harper government had put up for sale – and then rented them back to the government with 25-year leases. The CRA has offices in three of the buildings.

By then, though, the Laljis had been using offshore tax havens for years. In 2003, Larco appeared before two Nevada gaming agencies when it wanted to change its financial arrangement with one of the casinos it owns in Las Vegas. The Nevada authorities wanted more information about who exactly controlled the casino.

At hearings in Carson City, Nevada, Thad Alston, Larco’s senior vice-president, gave an explanation, noting that “this [corporate] structure was created really with legal, tax and estate planning considerations for the Lalji family.”

The structure is complex: The Laljis had created a company called Hotspur Resorts Nevada Inc. to bid for casino assets in Nevada. Hotspur’s ownership was structured through a series of offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious offshore tax haven.

The chain ended with a foundation called Hilfreich Stiftung located in Liechtenstein, the tiny European offshore tax haven. Also involved was the Lalji Family Trust, and the HSBC bank, a British global banking giant.

While it’s not illegal to park money offshore as long as you declare it to the CRA, these offshore havens are used because they charge little to no taxes for companies and wealthy families – which is why the money is deposited there. “There are so many loopholes available to companies that companies can do it legally,” says Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, which lobbies against the use of such havens. “Unless you really flagrantly violate the laws, the CRA doesn’t have time or money to come after you.”

In his 2003 testimony, Alston indicated that the ultimate control of the family’s companies was held by the Lalji Family Trust. He said the trust was scheduled to be dissolved in 2005, whereby the Laljis would have to pay taxes to the CRA.

Thus, Alston said they decided to move some of this money offshore before 2005 “for estate planning and tax efficiency purposes, with the idea that you’d end up with a sum of funds offshore in a tax-free jurisdiction with the idea that with the funds under the control of essentially a bank, trust company, you would then have a way to manage those assets, those funds for the benefit of the families (for) generations to come. So that was the idea.”

He indicated that the sums moved offshore amounted to between $300-million and $500-million.

Ultimately, the offshore funds were managed by Hilfreich Stiftung, the Lichtenstein-based foundation created by the Laljis, which in turn was overseen by HSBC – a bank notorious for its offshore tax haven shenanigans. Media exposés earlier this year revealed how the bank’s Swiss arm helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal tens of millions in assets.
During his testimony, Alston said: “We had a long-standing relationship with HSBC. They had been a primary lender of the Canadian operating company for over 15 years, and actually, we ended up spending a substantial amount of time with the HSBC people in Zurich, which is where they are set up to manage the Lichtenstein foundations that they manage.

“We also looked at their experience in managing funds for other wealthy families and were convinced that as these things go, HSBC would be the ideal candidate for managing these funds.”

The Hilfreich Stiftung, while run by HSBC employees, was to act on recommendations made by Alston and Shiraz Lalji.

At another point in his testimony, Alston revealed the Laljis make use of another notorious offshore haven – the Channel Islands, just off the coast of England, and the island of Jersey specifically. And there, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) was involved. “So if you look at the [family’s] hotels that are in London, those are owned by ultimately a [foundation] administered in Jersey,” explained Alston, noting that RBC’s managing director in Jersey manages those assets.

Despite this elaborate offshore structure, there is no evidence the Laljis and Larco are engaged in illegal tax evasion.

“I’m sure that setting up of the [Lalji family] trust was related to tax avoidance,” surmises Howlett. “We don’t have evidence to say whether it was evasion or not. But why would you go to all that trouble unless there was some tax reason involved?… When something like this comes to a light it’s important that the CRA investigate.”

This is not the only controversy swirling around the Laljis. At the time of the sale of the seven buildings to Larco in 2007, there was criticism over whether the family received a sweetheart deal from the Harper government.

Indeed, the NDP, Liberals and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) trade union, claimed the buildings were sold for a song. A study commissioned by PSAC suggested that the buildings were unloaded for almost $800-million less than they were really worth.

“The federal government has established a cloak of secrecy so dense [about this sale] that even MPs are being kept in the dark,” noted John Gordon, PSAC’s president at the time. “According to our calculations, Canadians could pay as much as $2 in rent for every $1 received in proceeds from the sale.”

Moreover, a CBC investigation last year found relations between Larco and the federal government had soured over management of the buildings, with bureaucrats at Public Works and Government Services Canada claiming that Larco was a poor landlord, overcharging for services. In 2009, the department even sued Larco, which was settled two years later. The government’s bureaucrats believed the leases with Larco were a bad deal for taxpayers.

Mansoor Lalji, on the other hand, claimed that Public Works had erected too many hurdles for them to operate properly.

Messages and an email from the Observer were sent to Thad Alston seeking comment on these issues but were not replied to.

While other countries crack down on tax avoidance, Harper lays off thousands of CRA staff

If the Laljis are using offshore havens to chop their tax bill, they have plenty of company among Canada’s wealthiest families and the corporate sector.

In fact, the tax haven of Barbados is the second-largest recipient of Canadian foreign investment after the US – with $71-billion in 2014, up from $50-billion in 2010, while the Cayman Islands are ranked fourth, receiving $36-billion.

“When Canadian corporations invest $71 billion in the Barbados we know it’s not about investment – it’s about tax avoidance,” says Deneault.

Of course, using offshore havens for evading taxes is a time-honoured tradition among Canada’s political and business elites. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney received cash payments from German arms wheeler-dealer Karlheinz Schreiber totaling $300,000—though Mulroney claimed it was $225,000— in 1993 and 1994, which he didn’t bother declaring to the CRA until 1999. For a period of time much of this money sat in a safety deposit box in a New York bank.

Canada Steamship Lines Inc. (CSL), the family business of former prime minister Paul Martin Jr., has an international division registered in the Barbados. The Barbadian corporation is owned by a holding company in Bermuda, another offshore haven. This complicated setup allows CSL to escape paying millions in Canadian taxes.

Meanwhile, prominent business families such as the Irvings, Bronfmans and Stronachs use offshore havens to cut their tax bill, as do the chartered banks and corporations like Cameco, Gildan Activewear, Eldorado Gold, Cirque du Soleil and Québecor, among many others.

KPMG and banks like RBC have been investigated by the CRA for helping wealthy Canadians set up offshore tax structures.

And how has the Harper government responded? In 2012-13, the government chopped $259-million from the CRA’s budget over five years – the largest single cut to any department, making it harder to investigate tax evasion.

“They laid off three thousand CRA staff, totally decimating capacity and losing many experienced auditors,” says Howlett. “What’s happening now is while other countries are beginning to crack down, Canada is lagging behind.”

Meanwhile, the number of people convicted of tax evasion in Canada has dropped by more than half since 2009, according to the CRA’s own figures. In 2013, it was discovered that Jim Love, chairman of the Royal Canadian Mint, and a good friend of former finance minister Jim Flaherty’s, helped a wealthy Canadian family move millions through offshore havens to avoid paying taxes.

Today, Senator Downe is appalled at how little political will there is to collect monies owed to the government.

“There is a lot of money out there,” he says, “a lot of money is owed and a lot of money is not being collected…. Why are you and I paying taxes when other people are avoiding them? We should not have to make up the shortfall.”

October 15, 5:22pm -Several minor edits have been made to this article to prepare for re-publication

Work It! March with UNITE HERE at Pride 2015!

Join our campaign to end job discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression! March with UNITE HERE Local 40 at Vancouver Pride on Sunday, August 2. We will gather on the north side of Alberni St between Thurlow and Burrard at 11:45am. Come join us and #WorkIt

Tourism workers take over Burrard SkyTrain station to celebrate transit pass victory

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Hundreds of tourism workers and their supporters celebrated the new transit pass discount for 8 Vancouver hotels with a party in front of the Burrard Skytrain Station on Thursday afternoon. The festivities featured food, drink and a giant petition to Vancouver’s mayor and city council asking the City to support an even bigger transit pass discount. Right now, employees at 8 Vancouver hotels receive a 15% discount on their transit passes.  Our goal is an even better transit pass discount for everyone working in the Vancouver tourism industry.

On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of tourism workers signed the giant petition to the City and nearly 100 hotel workers used their cell phones to call Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson, asking the City for an even better transit pass.

All tourism workers in Vancouver deserve an affordable way to get to work. For more information on the transit pass campaign or to learn how you can get involved, sign up for our email list here or call UNITE HERE Local 40 at 604-473-4809.

Join us this Thursday for an even better Transit Pass Discount!


Come join us this Thursday, July 9th from 4:30 to 6:00pm at Burrard Skytrain Station as we celebrate winning a discount transit pass for hotel workers in 8 Vancouver hotels. We will be celebrating our victory and asking the city to increase the discount.

We are asking for a transit discount for ALL Vancouver tourism workers. We work hard to welcome guests to our city. Right now, Vancouver City Council is discussing whether to increase our transit pass discount. We need to make sure our voices will be heard!

This Thursday, July 9 at Burrard Skytrain Station we will be signing a petition asking City Council to increase our transit discount. We will also be calling the Mayor, Gregor Robertson. The first 100 people to call the Mayor will get a free one-zone skytrain ticket on Thursday!

Join us anytime from 4:30pm to 6:00pm this Thursday at Burrard Station. See you there!

1200 Vancouver Hotel Workers Win Record Wage Increase

$1.25/hour Wage Increase in 6 Months

On July 1st, 1200 employees at 4 downtown Vancouver hotels will receive the second of two wage increases applied in the past 6 months. The total increase of $1.25/hour represents a record raise over this time span for hotel workers in Vancouver. The 1200 workers are employed by the Four Seasons, Westin Bayshore, Hyatt Regency and Pinnacle Hotels.

“Everyone who works in Metro Vancouver has the right to a living wage,” said Robert Demand, President of UNITE HERE Local 40. “At a time when so many people are struggling with the high cost of living, we are really proud to be moving wages in the right direction – not only for our members, but for all tourism workers in the city. Hotel and other service workers are the backbone of the tourism industry and the whole city will benefit from a strong, stable and adequately compensated workforce.”

Transit Pass Discount

The record wage increases coincide with the introduction of a 15% transit pass discount, which began this spring for employees at 8 Vancouver hotels. The transit pass discount was the result of a campaign launched by Local 40 in 2014, aimed at winning a substantial transit discount for all tourism workers in Vancouver.

“Reducing transit costs is a key part of controlling the cost of living for tourism workers,” said Robert Demand. “As the cost of living in Vancouver continues to rise, tourism workers have to live farther and farther away from where they work. Discounting the transit pass will help tourism workers get to work at a price they can afford, while encouraging increased use of the most environmentally friendly transportation option.”

Local 40 is continuing the campaign for an increased transit discount for tourism workers. On July 9th, the union will be mobilizing union and non-union workers across the city to call on Vancouver City Council to support the hotel workers’ campaign, and provide funding to help expand the transit discount program.

Vancouver’s Tourism Industry

The tourism industry is one of Vancouver’s most important economic sectors, employing over 66,000 people and generating $6.1 billion dollars for Greater Vancouver. The continued health of the tourism sector and the local economy will depend on creating high quality jobs to attract and retain a skilled, experienced and dedicated workforce.

“I have worked as a room attendant for 25 years and proudly welcome guests from all over the world, ” said Noy Paguio, a room attendant at the Westin Bayshore Hotel. “We have to improve standards to be able to afford to live and work here. Wage increases like the one we just received, and the transit pass discount will help make that possible.”


Update: Protest Tonight at Nanaimo Golf Club

Nanaimo Women’s Business Network has Moved Event to Coast Bastion!

NANAIMO – Locked out staff and their supporters will be joined by BC Federation of Labour President, Irene Lanzinger, today to protest the Nanaimo Golf Club.

Date: May 5 @ 5pm
Where: Nanaimo Golf Club

Two dozen UNITE HERE Local 40 workers, including servers, bartenders, cooks, dishwashers, janitors and the Chef have been locked out by the Nanaimo Golf Club for 11 days.

We have just learned that the Nanaimo Women’s Business Network has moved their event out of the Nanaimo Golf Club and to the Coast Bastion this evening.  They join other area groups who have relocated events due to the lockout.

“We understand groups are inconvenienced by the Club’s lockout.  We hope this sends a strong message to the Club to bring back the workers and negotiate,” said Shelly Ervin, officer of UNITE HERE Local 40.

The Club has not offered to bring staff back to work nor made any overtures to restart negotiations.

UNITE HERE Local 40 represents thousands of hospitality workers throughout BC.

Contact: Michelle Travis
Direct: (604) 473-4805
Email: [email protected]