Labour groups launch boycott of 2 B.C. hotels over pandemic firings

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The heavyweights of B.C.’s labour movement are launching a boycott of a pair of hotels they say are using the COVID-19 pandemic to attack workers rights.

The BC Federation of Labour and the BC Government Employees and Services Union say they’ll pull their business, worth millions of dollars per year, from the Pacific Gateway and Metrotown Hilton hotels.

They’re calling on half a million members of affiliated unions to join the boycott.

The Hilton has terminated 97 workers, while the Pacific Gateway has let go of more than 140, with no right to return, according to Unite Here Local 40, which represents the hotel staff.

That’s compared to the Hyatt, Westin Bayshore, Pinnacle Harbourfront and Rosewood Hotel Georgia, which have given workers through summer 2022 to return to their jobs.

In a statement, the employer group said negotiations have been stalled, and blamed the union for refusing to set further bargaining dates.

“Getting back to the bargaining table is the only way for the unionized portion of the hotel industry to get back on its feet,” it said.

The BCFED is accusing the hotels of using the pandemic as an excuse to fire long-term workers and replace them with new employees at lower wages and with fewer benefits.

Pardeep Thandi, who has worked as a housekeeper for 27 years at the Pacific Gateway, learned she lost her job on Friday.

“Right now it’s very hard for me. My kids, my husband, it’s very stressful now. I have 10 years left before my retirement. I don’t think I can get another job with the same wages, medical,” she said.

“It’s too hard, everything — expenses, university fees, mortgage, bills, groceries.”

Valerie Bisio, who has worked for 22 years as a housekeeper at the Hilton, said she wants her fired colleagues brought back on with with their salary and seniority restored.

Bisio said the day to day work at the hotel has become more difficult as the staff has been reduced.

“It’s been physically and mentally challenging, it really has,” she said.

Workers who remain on the job are worried the hotel is planning to roll back their pensions and benefits, she said, and feel they no longer have job security.

“It’s people’s livelihoods, it’s people’s families,” she said.

Sergio Moyer, the hotel’s guest service lead, said there was no excuse for the hotels to permanently eliminate staff, given the temporary nature of the COVID-19 crisis.

“With vaccine rollouts, the numbers of infected have been going down there will be an end to all of this,” he said.

“We’re asking that recall right be extended to all of our workers.”

The BC Federation of Labour said it was “shameful” the hotels were firing and refusing to call back workers, despite accepting COVID-19 subsidies from the federal government.

It called the terminations at the Pacific Gateway particularly egregious, given that the hotel is acting as a COVID-19 isolation site for returning international travellers.

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