Over 1000 hospitality workers in 14 cities win standard-setting extended recall rights, protections for union health care and pension
Vancouver, BC — Over 1000 hospitality workers in hotels, motels, pubs, and liquor stores across 14 communities in BC overwhelmingly voted by 80% to ratify a new four-year agreement with Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR). This contract includes an extension of recall rights for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic — through to July 1, 2023 or when the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the pandemic is over. After an 18-month effort, BC’s hospitality workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, have achieved a new standard securing the right of workers to return to their jobs as business recovers.
Workers fought to push back against an industry attack to replace their good living wage jobs with those at minimum wage and eliminate union health and pension benefits. HIR employers finally agreed to extend recall rights for all properties. Local 40 members only agreed to settle if their pension, health care, severance pay, and workload were protected. As well as winning unlimited recall rights to cover future crises such as pandemics and natural disasters, they won longer recall protection for regular seasonal layoffs, increasing from 6 months to 12.
Workers at several HIR properties, such as Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Holiday Inn Vancouver, organized and participated in rallies earlier this year to protest the industry’s attempt to impose deep concessions which would have rolled back years of hard-won gains. UNITE HERE Local 40 called on HIR to find a path forward to address the impact of the pandemic on hospitality workers and their employers. HIR issued a lockout notice in mid-April, which would have disproportionately impacted women and racialized workers.
Jan Budd, a kitchen helper for 30 years at Holiday Inn & Suites Vancouver Downtown, said: “It feels incredible to have been part of this huge victory, after so many months of fighting against the industry. I can breathe a sigh of relief now knowing that I won’t have to start all over again at minimum wage. HIR finally respected our years of service, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back at work again as business eventually recovers.”
Fe Taala Casas, a room attendant for 26 years at Inn at the Quay in New Westminster, said: “I’m over the moon. We fought very hard since the pandemic started to make sure all of us would have jobs to go back to once Covid is over, and in the end, we won just that. I’m very proud that we were able to make sure recall rights would be extended, and that we protected our pension and health care. This victory sends a strong signal that other hospitality employers should be making sure no one loses their job because of this pandemic.”
The new contract covers hospitality workers in Vancouver, Victoria, Coquitlam, Richmond, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Abbotsford, Harrison Hot Springs, Kamloops, Castlegar, Port Alberni, Mackenzie, Prince Rupert, and Fort St. John.
While HIR has extended recall rights, some BC hotels such as the Pacific Gateway, Hilton Metrotown, and Coast Bastion still refuse to commit to returning workers back to their jobs. The union launched the “Unequal Women” campaign in March to call attention to hotels that refuse to guarantee workers — many of them women and immigrants — the right to return to their jobs as the industry recovers.
UNITE HERE Local 40 is a labour union representing workers in the hotel, food service, camp, and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.
We are hearing from members that employers are beginning to ask our members about their vaccination status. Members have questions and we take members’ medical privacy very seriously.
We have posed members’ questions to our lawyers and have prepared the following summary. Please reach out if you have questions or need assistance.
Can my employer ask if I’ve been vaccinated?
Employers are entitled to employee medical information where they reasonably need it in order to manage the workforce. Your employer can ask about your vaccination status if it will determine what COVID-19 safety protocols they will implement. However, your employer is required to keep this information private and may not share your status with any employees who do not need to know it for their own work, including managers. Your employer has to ensure it keeps your private medical information secure and protects you from privacy breaches.
What will happen if I refuse to disclose my vaccination status?
If your employer has a reasonable basis to request your vaccination status and you refuse to answer, this may be grounds for discipline, suspension, or potentially even termination. Refusing to comply with a reasonable employer direction is insubordination and can justify discipline up to, potentially, termination. Of course, this depends on whether your employer actually needs to know your vaccination status, which depends on whether that information will determine what COVID-19 safety protocols they implement.
Alternately, employers could address failure to prove vaccination status as a non-disciplinary matter. If your employer requires proof of vaccination in order to perform certain tasks (e.g., public-facing work) that are a core part of your job, your employer could consider lack of proof of vaccination as inability to perform your job. Your employer might keep you off work without pay until you obtain proof of vaccination. This is similar to what happens when an employee who requires a driver’s licence to do their job loses their license temporarily: they are held out of work until their license is reinstated, if this is a reasonably brief period.
Can my employer require me to get vaccinated?
The answer to this question depends on the circumstances of your work. Employers have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of all workers. Employers also have a legitimate interest in protecting the health and safety of guests or customers. If you work in an environment where being unvaccinated could threaten the health and safety of other employees, guests, or customers, and less intrusive safety measures like masking and ventilation are insufficient, then your employer could be in a position to require vaccines.
For example, if you work in maintenance or on the phones and do not regularly interact with hotel guests, it is very unlikely that your employer could require you to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. On the other hand, if you are a server in a hotel restaurant where public health orders require patrons to be double-vaccinated, your employer would have a better argument that it is reasonable to require you, too, to be double vaccinated.
Because the law around mandating vaccines is still very unclear, most employers are erring on the side of not imposing vaccine mandates. Few employers outside healthcare settings are requiring employees to be vaccinated. We think it is more likely that employers who want their employees to be vaccinated to work in public-facing roles will simply not schedule unvaccinated employees to do that work, rather than disciplining or dismissing unvaccinated employees.
One of my co-workers has not been vaccinated and I don’t feel comfortable working with that person. What can I do?
This also depends on the context and whether there are any extra factors making this situation particular risky for you. If you have a medical condition that places you at higher risk from COVID, or if you live with someone who does, you might be entitled to a workplace accommodation. However, if you don’t have any higher risk factors then your employer’s only obligation is to comply with public health orders.
Right now, that means your employer must require masks in all public indoor settings but not in parts of the workplace that are not accessible to the public. Hotel restaurants and bars must prohibit socializing between tables and dancing. Organized gatherings are subject to capacity restrictions.
As of September 13, hotels, restaurants, and bars must require proof of vaccination for members of the public to access hotel restaurants, bars, gyms or exercise facilities, and indoor events with 50 or more people like weddings, parties, and conferences. This does not apply to employees at work. Employers are allowed to permit unvaccinated employees to work in these environments.
UNITE HERE Local 40 represents hospitality workers across BC. We are the union that led the historic 2019 Vancouver hotel strikes. We’re looking for a creative and energetic communications assistant to help in implementing campaigns.
Create simple flyers and other promotional materials.
Manage social media editorial calendar for multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to maximize post engagement and reach. Create post content, take photos and/or short videos, go live, and design simple graphics.
Build online actions to engage and grow audiences, including members and potential allies.
Write and implement messages and campaigns for email, broadcast text, and peer-to-peer texting; monitor performance and engage with responses.
Write for diverse audiences, e.g. websites for union members or consumers, online ads for the general public, social media posts for hospitality industry workers generally.
Update website content as needed.
Some experience in online organizing or political campaigns.
Some experience in communications, graphic design, or marketing.
Demonstrated passion for progressive politics and social justice.
Ability to write concisely, clearly, and quickly with minimal oversight or copyediting.
Technological savvy and ability to learn new online platforms relatively quickly. Experience shooting and editing short videos is a plus but not required.
This is a part-time position (20 hours/week). Compensation based on experience.
UNITE HERE Local 40 is an equal opportunity employer and we are committed to creating a diverse work environment. People of color, women, and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply.
Please send your resume to updates[at]unitehere40.com with “Communications Assistant” as the subject of your message.
Deadline to Apply: September 24, 2021
Vancouver, BC — Naden Abenes, a room attendant from the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, has been acclaimed by the NDP to be its candidate for Vancouver Quadra in the next federal election. UNITE HERE Local 40 is proud to endorse Naden, whose candidacy representing a major Canadian political party is unprecedented. If elected as MP, she would be the first Filipino Canadian woman to serve in the House of Commons.
Naden has been a member of UNITE HERE Local 40 and shop steward for 13 years. In 2019, she led her co-workers, many of them women and immigrants, in Vancouver’s largest hotel strike where they achieved historic wage increases and benefits.
She will not only be a strong voice for the riding, she will bring a unique perspective representing those who are often overlooked by Ottawa. If elected, Naden will likely be the first hospitality worker ever to serve as a Member of Parliament in Canada.
Naden raised her children as a single mom while working two jobs. She was laid off when the pandemic struck, and moved twice in the past year. She decided to enter politics to stand up for workers who have been made unequal by the economic impact of COVID-19. In BC’s hospitality industry alone, 50,000 hotel workers lost their jobs in 2020, and many have not returned to work. Instead of bringing them back to their jobs as business resumes, some hotels are firing their long-term workforce — many of whom are women of colour.
UNITE HERE Local 40, launched the BC Unequal Women campaign this past spring to call attention to how some hotels have taken advantage of the pandemic to terminate and replace workers.
Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40: “I have known Naden since she started working at Hyatt Regency Vancouver and consider her one of our strongest union leaders. Her passion for workers’ rights, commitment to the labour movement, and relentless drive to fight even in the face of adversity is inspiring. Now more than ever, we need political representatives like Naden in Ottawa — someone with lived experience, someone who knows first hand the urgency of important issues like affordable housing, and a fair recovery for those hit hardest by the pandemic, particularly women of colour. I stand firmly behind her as our NDP candidate for Vancouver Quadra.”
Media Contact: Stephanie Fung, [email protected], 604-928-7356
Vancouver, BC – Today, dozens of locked out Hilton Metrotown workers held an action outside the South Korean Consulate in Vancouver, urging their Ambassador to Canada, Keung Ryong Chang, to resolve the four month lockout involving a prominent Seoul-based hotel owner. The workers have been locked out by hotel management for 125 days. Hilton Metrotown is owned by DSDL Co., which is headquartered in Seoul.
The action follows multi-city actions in Canada and the U.S. Workers and allies recently delegated South Korean embassies in Ottawa and Washington D.C., as well as consulates in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Boston, and Seattle. They met with consulate and embassy officials, leafletted consulate staff, and demonstrated outside consulate buildings.
Instead of waiting for the pandemic to ease to bring workers back to their jobs, Hilton Metrotown fired almost 100 of them and locked out the rest in April this year. DSDL is owned by the prominent Cho family, who founded Hyosung, the world’s leading producer of spandex.
There has been an outpouring of labour and community support for the workers. The BC Federation of Labour issued a boycott of Hilton Metrotown in May, which could cost the hotel up to $3 million in lost business alone. On August 8, the Alberta Federation of Labour kicked off a boycott of three DSDL-owned hotels in Edmonton.
In a letter to the South Korean ambassador, UNITE HERE Local 40 President Zailda Chan expressed concerns that the crisis at Hilton Metrotown could negatively impact good faith and trust between communities of the two countries.
“It’s very unfair and shameful how DSDL refuses to bring us back despite repeated calls from workers and their supporters across Canada and the U.S. Many of us staff are long-term and women. We deserve to keep our jobs because we worked hard to help this hotel grow and become successful over 21 years,” said Liza Secretaria, locked out night auditor at Hilton Metrotown.
UNITE HERE Local 40 is a labour union representing workers in the hotel, food service and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.