Hospitality Union Launches New ‘Unethical DSDL’ Website as Hilton Metrotown Lockout Enters Ninth Month

Vancouver, B.C. – UNITE HERE Local 40 has launched a new bilingual (English/Korean) website, UnethicalDSDL.ca, to shine a light on the overseas company behind the lockout of Hilton Metrotown workers. Visitors to the site are urged to take action and direct a message to South Korea’s Ambassador to Canada concerning DSDL’s treatment of workers during the pandemic.

DSDL Co., based in Seoul, is the owner of Hilton Vancouver Metrotown and was once a part of South Korean conglomerate, Hyosung Corporation. The founding Chairman of DSDL has a history of convictions for financial crimes committed in South Korea.

Hilton Metrotown locked out its staff on April 15, 2021, after terminating 97 long-term workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the affected workers are women and immigrants. Workers are entering their ninth month on the picket line and have urged the hotel to reinstate all workers, restore daily room sanitizing, and to preserve wages, benefits, and working conditions amidst a labour shortage. The B.C. and Alberta Federations of Labour have endorsed boycotts of Hilton Vancouver Metrotown and DSDL’s hotels in Edmonton, respectively.

The new website provides background on the prominent family behind DSDL. It’s founding Chairman, Cho Wuk-rai, was convicted and sentenced to prison twice in South Korea: the first time for embezzlement, and later, for arranging illegal financial transactions that led to the bankruptcy of two publicly traded companies, including one that later became DSDL. Other members of the Cho family formed industrial conglomerate Hyosung Corporation and Hankook Tire and have recently faced criminal prosecution for tax evasion and bribery in South Korea.

The new website also highlights DSDL’s relationship with lender Canadian Western Bank and questions whether the bank fully examined the risks of doing business with this hotel owner.

UnethicalDSDL.ca features an online petition tool to send a message to DSDL and the South Korean Ambassador to Canada, Keung Ryong Chang, urging a resolution to the labour dispute. The site also provides information about the current boycott of DSDL hotels in Canada, and about recent actions taken at South Korean consulates and embassies across North America.

“It’s time for DSDL to act ethically and stop mistreating us long-term, loyal workers. Many of my co-workers and I gave two decades of service to Hilton Metrotown and proudly served guests from all over the world.  We don’t deserve to be fired and locked out, especially during a public health crisis. Workers in Canada expect better treatment than this,” said Sergio Moyer, a locked-out guest services lead with over 20 years on the job.

For more information, please contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], or 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.

BC Labour Board Twice Rules Pan Pacific Vancouver Violated Labour Code

Workers Win Third Legal Victory this Month Against Hotel

Vancouver, BC — In two separate decisions, the BC Labour Relations Board ruled that the Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel violated the BC Labour Relations Code three times: by changing terms and conditions of employment without negotiating with UNITE HERE Local 40, by refusing to recognize the inclusion of on-call workers in the unionized workforce, and by refusing to disclose important bargaining information to the union. Pan Pacific workers were certified as members of UNITE HERE Local 40 in February 2021.

Last year, prior to unionization, the Pan Pacific sent laid-off workers separate employment agreements to sign. One group was asked to be available 24 hours a week; the second group was offered $250 to sign a contract taking away their regular full-time status to become casual staff. In a ruling made on December 15, the Labour Board found that Pan Pacific breached Section 45(1)(b) of the Code when the hotel later sent new letters to these workers changing their terms and conditions of employment. In August 2021, the hotel sent letters to the 24-hour group, telling them they needed to be available for more than 24 hours, and in September 2021, the hotel sent letters to casual workers requiring unrestricted availability. 

The Board ordered the hotel to rescind the “offending communications” and make a declaration that the employer breached Section 45 of the Labour Code, that any changes to the terms and conditions of employment of any employee are null and void, and ordering that the Employer provide a copy of this decision to all employees who received the letters.

In a separate decision issued this month, the Board ruled that Pan Pacific Vancuver committed another code violation by refusing to share contact information with Local 40, along with excluding the on-call employees from the bargaining unit entirely. Pan Pacific must now send UNITE HERE Local 40 all employee telephone numbers and contact information for all of the on call employees. The hotel also cannot refuse to negotiate contract terms for on-call employees.

“The Labour Board’s decisions are a double victory for Pan Pacific Vancouver workers who have every right to be included in our union and engage in collective bargaining. These legal victories also demonstrate the hotel’s treatment of workers during the pandemic violated basic labour rights,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40. “Pan Pacific workers deserve much more from their employer, including recall rights, wages that match other downtown hotels in this city, fairer workloads, and scheduling by seniority, to name a few.”

Pan Pacific workers are currently negotiating their first collective agreement. The Labour Board rulings come on the heels of a decision issued on December 10, 2021, by a BC Supreme Court judge to allow a lawsuit over wrongful termination filed by a former employee to proceed as a class action.

Media Contacts: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], or Michelle Travis, [email protected], 778-960-9785

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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.

NDP calls on Liberal government to move PHAC out of Pacific Gateway Hotel

Letter to Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos urges government action to resolve negative impacts on hotel workers at quarantine site. 

Vancouver, BC — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and NDP health critic Don Davies are urging federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos to move Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) out of Pacific Gateway immediately and to urge the hotel to reinstate workers to their jobs. The government has been using Pacific Gateway as a federal quarantine hotel since last year. Over 140 workers – mostly women – were terminated after the takeover. Workers have been on strike since May 3, 2021.

In a letter addressed to Minister Duclos on December 13, Singh and Davies expressed their concerns about the ongoing situation at Pacific Gateway affecting the livelihoods of hotel workers. They noted “wretched” conditions at the hotel experienced by quarantined travellers, cited recently in The Globe and Mail, which is “matched by the terrible treatment of Pacific Gateway workers on the government’s watch.” 

PHAC is currently contracting the Red Cross and others to deliver food and clean the hotel; these were duties performed by Pacific Gateway workers before they were displaced and, many of them, terminated. The hotel has refused to return terminated staff to their jobs after the quarantine program ends. 

“That the government is continuing to give millions in public funds to a company while its workers are on strike and continues to hire contractors that cross their picket line, does not show your commitment to support workers and the work of unions,” the New Democrats stated. 

Pacific Gateway workers brought this issue to the attention of former Health Minister Patty Hajdu, and former PHAC President Iain Stewart. However, PHAC has repeatedly extended its contract with the hotel. The NDP is joining the hotel workers’ call to Minister Duclos and new PHAC president Harpreet Kochhar to move PHAC out of the hotel and to not renew beyond December 2021.

Media Contacts: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], or Michelle Travis, [email protected], 778-960-9785

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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.

 

Supreme Court Judge Gives Green Light to Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Pan Pacific Vancouver

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 14, 2021

Vancouver, BC — A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of employees terminated during the pandemic may proceed against Pan Pacific Vancouver. A former concierge who was employed by the hotel for 24 years filed the lawsuit after he was terminated last August. The class action will represent all regular hourly employees of the Pan Pacific as of February 20, 2020 whose shifts were cancelled on or after that date.

The lawsuit alleges workers were wrongfully fired during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiff, Romuel Escobar, claims the hotel misled workers, wrongfully terminated them without cause or notice, and skirted full severance pay owed to workers for their years of service. Early in the pandemic, hotel management detailed plans to drastically reduce its staff from 450 workers to 80 and to dismiss the rest. Rather than informing members about the impending dismissals, the company sent workers messages of false hope and suggested they intended to bring their long-term staff back.

Pan Pacific terminated staff in batches to avoid group termination provisions in the Employment Standards Act that required advance notice and would trigger larger payouts to workers, according to the lawsuit. Between firings, the hotel also offered workers $250 to sign a contract taking away their regular full-time status to become casual, on-call workers, effectively waiving their severance rights. The hotel fired workers anyway, regardless of whether they signed.

“The Court’s decision to allow the lawsuit to proceed as a class action sends a strong message to hotel employers: misleading your long-term workforce for months before mass firing them could lead to financial consequences. That’s why this development is a positive step forward for nearly 100 terminated workers at the Pan Pacific who deserve much better treatment from their employer during Covid,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40.

Pan Pacific Vancouver workers organized to join UNITE HERE Local 40 last year. Many of the affected Pan Pacific workers are immigrants and women of colour who have served the hotel for 20 to 30 years. Of the total women fired from the hotel since June 2020, 94% were women of colour.

Pan Pacific Vancouver is a luxury hotel at Canada Place. It is owned by an affiliate of Westmont Hospitality Group. Westmont is one of the world’s largest privately held hospitality companies with over 400 hotels worldwide. Westmont received over $48 million from government funded COVID-19 relief programs across North America but failed to keep its workforce intact.

Media Contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], or Michelle Travis, [email protected], 778-960-9785

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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.

Women of Colour More Likely to Face Permanent Job Loss in Hotels During Pandemic, New Report Reveals

Vancouver Women Leaders, UNITE HERE Local 40 Release Unequal Women Report

Vancouver, B.C. —  Today, Vancouver women leaders representing municipal, women’s, and labour groups joined UNITE HERE Local 40 in a press conference to release a new report: Unequal Women – Report on the Impact of Pandemic Terminations on Women of Colour in B.C.’s Hospitality Industry. The report investigates job losses at a sample group of hotels across BC and reveals that women of colour were more likely to be permanently laid off. The data showed that women of colour suffered the highest percentage of jobs lost among women overall at Pan Pacific Vancouver. Despite millions in government subsidies given to employers, they are under no obligation to ensure laid-off workers reclaim their jobs as business recovers. The report outlines recommendations for the province and federal government to ensure a fair recovery for workers.

UNITE HERE Local 40 collected data from 5 BC hotels — Pan Pacific Vancouver, Pacific Gateway, Hilton Metrotown, Coast Bastion, Coast Victoria Harbourside — to determine the impact of the recent wave of terminations on women of colour. Among the key takeaways were: 

  • Women accounted for the majority of workers terminated at each hotel.
  • In 4 of the 5 hotels, women of colour comprised the majority of terminated women.
  • Among terminated women, the highest rate of jobs lost by women of colour was at Pan Pacific Vancouver. 
  • The largest total number of jobs lost by women was 90 jobs at the Pacific Gateway Hotel, which was taken over by the federal government as a quarantine site in March 2020 through to the present.  Approximately 73% of women fired are racialized. 

“Losing my job of seven years at the Pan Pacific has caused me more hardship than I’d ever imagined. I thought I would be there until I retired. While I’ve found another job, I’m earning less than I made at the hotel. I’m still struggling to pay the bills. We women built the hotel industry on our backs. It’s time the government ‘builds back better’ with a feminist recovery that includes women like me,” said Stephanie Dan, a room attendant and single mother who, along with nearly 100 co-workers, was terminated at Pan Pacific Vancouver during the pandemic.

This year, Statistics Canada reported record-high job vacancies, particularly in industries such as food, tourism, and retail. However, women terminated from the hospitality industry are fighting to return to their jobs at their original pay and work conditions. Women of colour, particularly, are over-represented in low-waged, precarious work, and have borne the brunt of pandemic terminations in hotels. 

The BC government needs to do the right thing here and stand up for racialized women. Stop the discrimination against racialized women by these hotels. Stop allowing the hotels to push women into poverty. The solution is easy and costs virtually nothing: change the Employment Standards Act to extend recall rights to when the pandemic is over,” said Jean Swanson, Vancouver City Councillor.

“The Single Mothers’ Alliance for Gender & Economic Justice stands behind Unite Here Local 40 and the recommendations released in the report today. We will not stand by while hard-working single mothers and women lose their jobs to pandemic profiteering by hotels in BC. We call on government to implement a feminist economic pandemic recovery that immediately reinstates these women’s jobs and addresses the issue of much-needed job security for women through recall protection for any worker laid off during the pandemic,” said Viveca Ellis, Provincial Organizer at Single Mothers Alliance for Gender and Economic Justice.

“We know that women are already overrepresented in informal labour that, because unregulated, make them more susceptible to exploitation and violence. Women Transforming Cities is calling out how these conditions impact the quality of life of racialized working women in our city. We hope that with the release of the Unequal Women report, we will restore the voice and value of women who have given so much to our communities. This is Women Transforming Cities’ commitment as an organization, as we push policymakers to implement the recommendations outlined in the report,” said Mahtab Laghaei, Campaign Lead at Women Transforming Cities.

“VDLC stands in solidarity with Unite Here Local 40. The Unequal Women report exposes the ugly agenda of the hotel industry to destroy sustainable jobs and replace them with low-paid, precarious work. Indigenous and racialized women are the backbone of the service sector where most job losses have occurred during the pandemic. This is an urgent call to support our union and non-union sisters, demand that the government hold the hotel industry accountable for the billions in welfare dollars they have received, and work together to prevent the hotel industry from impoverishing more families and communities.” said Seema Ahluwalia, Member at Large of the Vancouver and District Labour Council, and Chair of the VDLC Anti-racism committee. 

UNITE HERE Local 40’s report recommends that the BC government should follow the lead of other governments to ensure that no employer can terminate long-term staff as a result of the pandemic. Federal leaders should condition employers’ pandemic subsidies on worker retention to ensure laid-off workers have priority over their replacements.

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.