Press Release: Workers Ask When Federal Government Plans to Stop Using Quarantine Hotel that Fired Staff, Faces Human Rights Complaint

‘How much has the government spent on this hotel while women like me are treated like we’re disposable?’

Vancouver, BC – Workers told the Standing Committee on Health yesterday that a federal quarantine hotel fired most of its female staff on the government’s watch, and more women could lose their jobs if the government fails to act. The hotel, Pacific Gateway at Vancouver International Airport, recently terminated over 140 long-term staff, primarily impacting women – many of whom are racialized.

“I was terminated last month along with many of my co-workers.  The hotel fired 90% of our housekeeping staff. Most of us are women who have worked there for decades. There’s no reason why we should lose our jobs during a temporary pandemic,” said Kiran Dhillon, a room attendant who had worked at the hotel for seventeen years.

A human rights complaint over sex and racial discrimination was filed against the hotel this month alleging women, particularly racialized women, have been disproportionately targeted for terminations while men’s jobs were more likely to be protected.  So far, the hotel has terminated 74% of its female employees since February 2021.

“Prime Minister Trudeau promised us a feminist recovery, but women are bearing the brunt of firings at Pacific Gateway on the government’s watch.  How much has the government spent on this hotel while women like me are treated like we’re disposable?  I am a single mom raising two children.  I expected to go back to my job when it was time,” said Elisa Cardona, who worked at Pacific Gateway for seven years as a hostess and server.

After workers testified, opposition critics on the committee questioned Ian Stewart, President of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), about the situation at the hotel and how long the government plans to continue its hotel quarantine program.  Stewart would not say how long the federal government intends to continue with the program.  When asked by NDP MP Don Davies whether PHAC would provide a copy of the government contract with Pacific Gateway to the Health Committee, Stewart said they would look into it.

Pacific Gateway is one of the original sites taken over by the federal government last year to quarantine travelers.  Pacific Gateway workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, went on strike on May 3, 2021 over hotel firings and drastic economic rollbacks.  Workers have asked to return to their jobs after the federal quarantine ends and when the work becomes available again.  The hotel has refused.

To view hotel workers’ testimony, go to:  https://rb.gy/x5npkk

To view NDP MP Don Davies question to Ian Stewart, President of PHAC, go to: https://rb.gy/w7y8nl

To read Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner’s statement, go to: https://rb.gy/upzksm

To view Conservative MP John Barlow question Ian Stewart, go to: https://rb.gy/i3nfb7

The full committee meeting can be viewed here: https://parlvu.parl.gc.ca/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20210607/-1/35650?Language=English&Stream=Video

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 For more information, contact: Michelle Travis, [email protected], 778-960-9785.

Press Release: Hilton Vancouver Metrotown to Lose Millions More in 2022 if Labour Dispute with Locked Out Hotel Workers Not Resolved by End of June

Vancouver, B.C.— Major BC unions are upping the ante on its boycott and threatening to lock Hilton Metrotown out of any business in 2022 unless the hotel settles the labour dispute with its locked out workers by June 30. At a press conference today, UNITE HERE Local 40 and BCGEU joined Hilton Vancouver Metrotown hotel workers on the picket line to announce the new pledge which will go into effect if the hotel fails to resolve the dispute this month.

 

This unprecedented move by prominent union customers could cost the hotel up to $2 million next year—in addition to lost business this year—if Hilton Metrotown fails to resolve the lockout and commit to reinstate workers fired during the pandemic.

 

In early April, major union customers pledged to withhold their business until the Hilton Metrotown guaranteed workers a right to return to their jobs. Hotel management locked out workers on April 15 after firing 97 long-term workers. Burnaby City Council also adopted a resolution to support Hilton Metrotown workers and withdraw business from the hotel. Now, unions have decided that if the Hilton Metrotown does not reinstate the terminated workers and resolve the labour dispute by June 30, 2021, they will relocate their business for the entire calendar year of 2022.

 

Robert Demand, Executive Director of UNITE HERE Local 40: “Hilton Metrotown workers have been locked out for six weeks, and the hotel has yet to demonstrate a willingness to resolve the lockout or commit to reinstate their long-term workers.  Our members are relentlessly fighting back. Thanks to BCGEU and our other strong union allies who have agreed to this new pledge which escalates the boycott to make sure the hotel returns workers to their jobs. Other hotel employers considering the path that Hilton Metrotown has taken should think again.”

Stephanie Smith, President of BCGEU: “The way the Hilton Metrotown has treated Unite Here members during the COVID-19 pandemic is despicable. As BC’s restart plan moves ahead no one should be okay with hotel workers being left behind. Before the pandemic the BCGEU spent $500,000 dollars each year at the Hilton Metrotown and we would have been booking again as soon as the restrictions were lifted but we will not support a business that mistreats workers. On behalf of the 82,000 members of the BCGEU, I urge the Hilton Metrotown to get back to the table, negotiate a fair deal, and bring these workers back to their jobs once the pandemic is over.”

Sergio Moyer, locked out Guest Services lead: “It’s unbelievable the depths to which Hilton Metrotown has gone to get rid of my co-workers who have dedicated their lives to building this hotel. For management to still lock us out for this long despite many customers moving to other hotels, including Lufthansa, is an all-time low. That’s why we’ve decided to escalate the boycott with this new pledge. I’m grateful to BCGEU and my union siblings for standing beside us in this fight – together, we will continue to fight back until the Hilton Metrotown returns workers back to their jobs.”

 

Currently, BCGEU, CUPE BC, HEU, MoveUp, BCTF, PSAC BC, CUPE BC, UFCW 1518, IBEW Local 258, BC Insulators Local 118, Boilermakers Lodge 359, and Brewery Winery and Distillery Workers Local 300 have joined the pledge.

 

Hilton Metrotown’s treatment of its long-term staff is part of a broader industry attack on hotel workers. Hotel employers across BC have used mass pandemic firings to roll back decades of economic gains made by hotel workers, disproportionately impacting women and immigrants.

 

For additional information, please contact:
Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [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.

 

 

 

MEDIA ADVISORY: UNITE HERE Local 40 and BCGEU to Hold Press Conference; Major BC Unions Vow to Boycott Hilton Vancouver Metrotown through 2022 Unless Hotel Settles Labour Dispute by end of June

Vancouver, B.C.— Today, on Thursday June 3rd, union leaders alongside locked out Hilton Vancouver Metrotown hotel workers will hold a press conference announcing a new pledge that will see large unions vowing to boycott Hilton Metrotown for the entire year of 2022, causing an estimated loss of $2 million annually for the hotel. Previously, unions such as BCGEU, HEU, and MoveUp, pledged to withhold their business until the Hilton Metrotown guaranteed workers a right to return to their jobs. Hotel management locked out workers on April 15 after firing 97 long-term workers. Now, as workers enter the 7th week of the lockout, unions have decided that if the Hilton Metrotown does not reinstate the terminated workers and resolve the labour dispute by June 30, 2021, they will relocate their business for the entire calendar year of 2022. So far, 11 unions have joined the pledge, indicating a potentially devastating financial hit for the hotel.

 

WHO:              Union leaders of UNITE HERE Local 40 and BCGEU, and locked out Hilton Metrotown workers.
WHERE:         6083 McKay Ave, Burnaby, BC

 

WHEN:            Thursday, June 3, 11 a.m.

 

VISUALS:     Hotel workers and allies wearing masks standing 2 metres apart, chanting and speaking with colourful banners, signs, and bullhorns.

 

Media availability with union leaders of UNITE HERE Local 40 and BCGEU, and Hilton Metrotown hotel workers.

 

For additional information, please contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [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: 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