Amid the booming tourist season, this week hotel workers from Hyatt, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle voted 89% in favour of taking strike action, while Hotel Georgia workers voted 84% yes for a strike mandate on August 7. In response, the Hotel Georgia issued a lockout notice effective Thursday, August 22. A lockout would be unprecedented at Canada’s #1 hotel and comes on the heels of a human rights complaint filed against the hotel earlier this month; certain female staff who filed the complaint are seeking protection for workers from sexual harassment and assault by hotel guests.
One Job Should Be Enough! Is the demand of 1500 hotel workers and their families.
While Vancouver’s hospitality industry enjoys record profits, the hotels have failed to bargain a contract for staff with livable wages and enough hours to create jobs that can sustain a family in Vancouver, Richmond, Coquitlam or Surrey. Safety is also a top concern as heavy workloads commonly cause injuries to workers, and several women have recently come forward about sexual harassment and assault faced on the job. Workers at the hotels, most of whom have been without a new contract for over a year, are frustrated with their current working conditions and are prepared to act to achieve changes for a better life.
For more information, please contact Sharan Pawa at 604-725-0053 or [email protected].
On August 7, an overwhelming majority of Hotel Georgia employees including room attendants, front desk agents, servers and cooks at the high-end Vancouver hotel, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, voted in favour of authorizing a strike action. The Hotel Georgia, rated Canada’s top hotel by U.S. News & World Report, holds itself to the highest hospitality standards, while failing to address serious workplace issues faced by staff. Frustrated with working conditions that do not meet its five-star standard, employees are prepared to take action for better hospitality jobs.
“We are industry-leading in service and quality. We want to be an industry leader in job satisfaction and safety,” stated James Sugden, a cook at the Hotel Georgia.
Hotel Georgia workers want industry-setting wages and job standards commensurate to the elevated level of service they are expected to provide on a day-to-day basis to the hotel’s wealthy and well-known clientele. Workers are also seeking better protection from discrimination and sexual harassment, as several women have recently come forward with sexual harassment complaints. Some employees report the need to work second or third jobs to make ends meet and the need for expanded access to medical benefits. Other issues include the lack of supplies needed to perform their work and disrespectful treatment by management.
VANCOUVER – In response to a new wave of reports of sexual harassment experienced by some staff at Vancouver’s Hotel Georgia, certain female employees have filed a human rights complaint against the hotel for gender discrimination, an overly-sexualized work environment and failure to respond appropriately to incidents of harassment or assault in the workplace. UNITE HERE is the union representing workers at the legendary hotel.
The Hotel Georgia is an internationally recognized luxury hotel ranked the best hotel in Canada by U.S. News & World Report and has earned distinctions from Forbes and Conde Nast. Yet, women tell a different story of what it is like to work at Canada’s top-rated hotel, which is owned by Pacific Reach Properties, a Canadian real-estate company with interests in hotels and restaurants.
“Sexual harassment is a problem for many women working in this industry, and at this hotel in particular. Female servers have been touched, kissed, and have experienced sexual comments and advances from male guests and past managers. I feel that this type of behavior should not be tolerated,” said Sierra Garrison, a server at the Hotel Georgia.
Pacific Reach Properties has yet to comprehensively address the #MeToo experiences of many female staff who continue to come forward with stories of sexual harassment on the job. According to the human rights complaint, the Hotel Georgia is contributing to a culture of abuse, putting profit and guest satisfaction over the safety of their employees:
- Certain female employees have explicitly been told that they must “put up with” the sexual assault and harassment from the guests.
- Management not only condones this behavior by guests, but actively creates an atmosphere that encourages sexualization of female staff for guests.
- The hotel offers what it describes as “an unmatched combination of legacy and luxury” all the while allowing for certain female staff to be treated in derogatory and discriminatory manner.
“On one occasion, I had a guest reach his hand up my skirt and grab my inner thigh and hold me, not letting go. When I told management about this, they told me that they didn’t want to make a scene so best to just keep serving him. I ultimately left the hotel because I couldn’t deal with the environment there anymore,” said Jesse Perry-Huson, a server at the Hotel Georgia.
UNITE HERE is calling for measures to ensure the safety of women working in Canada’s hospitality industry, such as; panic buttons, a hotel ban of guests that commit sexual harassment, whistleblower protection for those who come forward to report incidents and worker safety representatives to investigate harassment, discrimination and safety issues in the hotel. The Union has successfully achieved these measures in other cities across North America. Most recently, the City of Vancouver unanimously passed a motion to explore how the city can better protect hospitality and other service workers from sexual harassment in response, in part, to women coming forward at the Hotel Georgia.
Contact: Sharan Pawa, 604-725-0053, [email protected]
UNITE HERE Local 40 represents workers throughout B.C. who work in hotels, food service and airports. Local 40 is part of the UNITE HERE International Union, representing over 300,000 workers in the hotel, food service, airport and gaming industries across Canada and the U.S.
UNITE HERE Local 40 mourns the passing of Jean Poulton, a long time union representative who served our members for twenty years. Jean passed away on July 24 after a long illness. She was a tough, caring fighter for Local 40 members. Jean had a wisecracking sense of humour and a talent for photography and other creative endeavors. Prior to joining the staff of Local 40, she worked at Harrison Hot Springs. We miss you Jean. We extend our deepest condolences to Jean’s family and community of friends.