Press Release – Tenants Allege City of Vancouver Failed to Uphold City By-Laws at Larco Properties, Call for Investigation

Vancouver, BC – This week, serious questions have surfaced regarding the relationship between the City of Vancouver and Larco Investments, detailed in a letter sent to City Manager Paul Mochrie and General Manager of Buildings, Corrie Okell. Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40, sent a letter that was co-signed by a group of tenants from 1225 Cardero St and 5455 Balsam St, claiming that the City has failed to hold Larco Investments accountable for unresolved maintenance issues. An additional complaint was filed to the City of Vancouver’s Integrity Commissioner, raising questions about City Council’s role in the alleged negligence.

The most urgent concern highlighted in the letter is the unrepaired HVAC system at 1225 Cardero St, where on top of the pre-existing health issues resulting from the lack of ventilation, tenants have recently reported extreme temperatures over 40° C in their apartments. The City of Vancouver first confirmed that the landlord was in violation of the Standards of Maintenance By-Laws in September 2017, meaning City Staff have neglected to prosecute Larco on the issue for over six years. Despite a COV inspection report from March 2024 confirming the issue remains unresolved, the Chief Building Official has consistently ignored attempts at contact from both tenants and their legal representative.

This is echoed by similar concerns about the gas-fired boiler at 5455 Balsam St, which failed multiple times last winter, leaving the building without heat for days at a time. Tenants claim that Larco management dismissed any contractors who said that the boiler was too old to repair and should be condemned, prompting questions about the accuracy of reports accepted by City Staff.

For further details on the tenants’ allegations, the letter can be found here.

This development comes during an adjournment of City Council’s public hearing on the rezoning of 5455 Balsam St, in which Larco has applied to build a high-rise on top of existing tenant’s garden space. After extensive testimony in opposition to the rezoning, the meeting was adjourned to give City Staff time to write appropriate conditions to address issues raised, including an amendment to uphold standards of maintenance at the existing building. However, given their previous experiences with the City’s failure to do so, tenants are unconvinced this amendment will resolve their issues. “We will not allow them to use this adjournment to escape public scrutiny,” said Ileana Madrid from 5455 Balsam St.

Tenants reached out to UNITE HERE Local 40 after learning of the union’s strike at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport hotel––another property owned by Larco. “We write as a coalition of Vancouver workers and tenants, demanding justice for those impacted by the business practices of a powerful developer,” wrote President Chan. “We request that the City Managers urgently examine the relationship between Larco and the City, to ensure that it is operating independently of Larco’s influence and acting in the best interests of Vancouver’s citizens.”

Contact: Nate Holers, 250-889-7682, campaigns@unitehere40.com

ON STRIKE: Downtown Vancouver Hotel Workers Walk off the Job

“It takes $40/hour to live in Metro Vancouver!”

Vancouver, BC – Room attendants, front desk agents, cooks, dishwashers and other workers at Hyatt Regency Vancouver walked off the job early this morning to launch a one-day strike. The workers are represented by UNITE HERE Local 40.

While Hyatt charges guests between $500 to $1200 per night, hotel workers are frustrated with the company’s failure to address wages that keep up with Metro Vancouver’s insanely unaffordable housing costs and inflation. The company wants to push the cost of medical benefits increasingly onto workers and, despite the decades of service that workers have invested in Hyatt, the company refuses to meaningfully improve workers’ pensions.

“I work hard and raised my boys on this job. But we’re on strike today because we cannot keep up with the cost of living in Vancouver.  I can’t cut back on rent, so that means I end up cutting back on groceries and other basic expenses.  If my rent goes up anymore, I might be homeless.  I can’t afford to move because rent is so high anywhere you go,” said Wanna Nualmeunwai, a Hyatt room attendant.

In other cities where housing costs and inflation have skyrocketed, like Los Angeles, Hyatt has agreed to higher wages and benefits for hotel workers.

“It takes $40/hour to live in Metro Vancouver.  Hyatt and other Vancouver hotels are charging astronomical room rates, cutting back services, and expecting workers to accept less while they’re being squeezed daily by the rising cost of living. Hotel workers are professionals in a key sector of our local economy who deserve to earn enough to live in Metro Vancouver,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40.

In Vancouver, the hourly wage, or rental wage, required to afford a 2-bedroom apartment while working full-time, and not spending more than 30% of one’s income, is $43/hour, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. That is a far cry from what the average full-time hotel worker earns.

Nearly two thousand hotel workers are in contract bargaining in downtown Vancouver over wages that keep pace with the city’s escalating cost of living. Meanwhile, Vancouver hotel room revenues were the highest on record last year – nearly $1.4 billion – and growing.

The workers’ collective agreement expired in 2022. There have been no negotiations with company representatives since February.  Workers bargained their last contract after being on strike for one month in 2019.

Contact: Michelle Travis, mtravis@unitehere.org, 778-960-9785

Breaking: Downtown Vancouver Hotel Workers Launch 1-day Strike

Press Conference to be held at 11am

Hotel workers at Hyatt Regency Vancouver have launched a limited duration strike. UNITE HERE Local 40, which represents the workers, will hold a press conference this morning to address the strike action.

When: Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Time11am

Where: Hyatt Regency Vancouver, 655 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC

Visuals: Striking Hyatt hotel workers and allies marching on the picket line, carrying signs, chanting and making noise.

Media Contact: Michelle Travis, mtravis@unitehere.org, 778-960-9785.

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Former Minister Harry Lali Crosses Picket Line Amid Heated Exchanges with Striking Workers

Vancouver, BC — Striking workers are outraged after Harry Lali, the former NDP transportation and highways minister, crossed their picket line at The Deck at Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport this weekend.

Workers from the hotel and The Deck have been on strike for over three years. Despite being clearly informed about the ongoing labour dispute in late May and explicitly urged by UNITE HERE Local 40 to relocate his family’s event, Mr. Lali and his family proceeded to hold the event at The Deck.

The situation escalated as Mr. Lali approached the picket line, leading to a heated confrontation between him and the strikers. Despite being aware of the dispute in advance and having the opportunity to hear the workers’ stories, Lali still chose to cross the line, accompanied by a group of men. His entourage appealed to the strikers, many of whom are Punjabi women, asking for permission to cross the picket line. The women stood firm, insisting that Lali, a former union member himself, knew better than to cross the line.

“Despite being informed well in advance about the ongoing labour dispute, Mr. Lali chose to cross the picket line. In May, Mr. Lali were notified months ahead about the situation, yet they decided to hold their event at a venue where workers on strike. This decision demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the workers fighting for the return of their co-workers, as well as respect and dignity on the job,” said Gulzar Grewal, Vice-President of UNITE HERE Local 40.

The BC Labour Relations Board recently issued a cease-and-desist order to the hotel and its majority owner, Sukhminder Rai, for threatening and intimidating strikers on the picket line. Rai threatened to fire one of the workers the day after the strike is settled, falsely told workers there are no kitchen jobs to return to, attempted to induce striking workers to retire, and made multiple insulting and threatening comments to one of the female strikers.

During the strike, the Labour Board has issued several cease-and-desist orders against the hotel for using impermissible replacement workers and ordered random inspections.

Contact: Michelle Travis, mtravis@unitehere.org, 778-960-9785

BREAKING: Why is a former NDP cabinet member planning to cross a Richmond picket line?

For Immediate Release

Vancouver BC — Striking workers are urging Harry Lali, the former NDP transportation and highways minister, to not cross their picket line at The Deck at Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport this weekend.

Mr. Lali’s family will be holding an event at The Deck despite the ongoing strike. Lali was made aware of the dispute in late May and was asked by a representative of UNITE HERE Local 40, which represents the striking workers, to relocate his family’s event to another location.  Workers from the hotel and The Deck have been on strike for over three years.

“Mr. Lali knew about the ongoing labour dispute, so why is he crossing workers’ picket line?  Many of the strikers are from the South Asian community. Has Mr. Lali, a former union member himself, completely forgotten working people?  Mr. Lali and his family should respect the workers and move their event to a venue that is not behind picket lines,” said Gulzar Grewal, Vice-President of UNITE HERE Local 40.

The BC Labour Relations Board recently slapped the hotel and its majority owner, Sukhminder Rai, with a cease and desist order for threatening and intimidating strikers on the picket line, many of whom are Punjabi women.  Rai threatened to fire one of the workers the day after the strike is settled, falsely told workers there are no kitchen jobs to return to, attempted to induce striking workers to retire, and made multiple insulting and threatening comments to one of the female strikers.

During the strike, the Labour Board has issued several cease and desist orders against the hotel for using impermissible replacement workers and ordered random inspections.

Contact: Michelle Travis, mtravis@unitehere.org, 778-960-9785