Despite the impending rains, the city of Vancouver remains a popular tourist destination and home of some of Canada’s best-rated upscale hotels. This September, Vancouver also became the centre for an important fightback by the hospitality workers that make this city such a great place to travel. For the first time in 20 years, over 1500 hotel room attendants, cooks, front desk workers, and bellmen from UNITE HERE Local 40 went on an ongoing open-ended strike demanding vital improvements in working conditions, wages, security and safety, and benefits.
Workers at the Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront began their strike on September 19, following 14 months of bargaining. They were joined three days later by workers from the Hotel Georgia, who have been working without a contract for eight months. Their demands are straight-forward – from stable, full-time jobs that provide a living wage, to an end to chronic understaffing that leads to increased workplace injuries and a decline in quality of life. However, the Greater Vancouver Hotel Employers Association, which represents the hotel management, has been unwilling to continue negotiating with good faith at the bargaining table.
As Naden Abenes, who has been a room attendant at the Hyatt Regency for 11 years explained to Province newspaper reportor @nickeagland (theprovince.com) on September 22, 2019 “The company, they just want to talk about wages and dismiss all the other demands we’re asking for – job security, workload, benefits, retirement for long-term people, health and safety – and that’s very important.”
Another critical issue that remains on the table for workers at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia is sexual harassment. Just this year, 10 female workers from the hotel have filed complaints with the BC Human Rights Tribunal against their employer for the harassment that they were forced to endure in order to keep their jobs. Now, the hotel management is refusing to accept basic protections for their workers: panic buttons, a guest ban and protection for employees who come forward with complaints. Although the Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront have agreed to these important protections, it is yet to be seen whether they will carry through with their promises.
Hotel Workers in Vancouver Are Standing Up for All of Us!
According to a press release from UNITE HERE Local 40, “As hotels under strike have doubled their revenues from just years ago, workers have been left behind – on their current wages, striking room attendants have to work 89 hours a week just to earn enough to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver.”
Unfortunately, this is a familiar story for many workers across Vancouver and British Columbia. As of 2018, one in five children in B.C. grow up in poverty, many of them in homes with at least one working parent (BC Child Poverty 2018 Report Card). One of the reasons for this is that real wages for workers in Canada have remained stagnant since the 1970’s – even though the hospitality industry and other sectors across Canada have continued to rake in massive profits.
Hotel workers in Vancouver are standing up for the right to dignified work and retirement, a workplace free of injury and sexual harassment and job security. By going on strike and fighting for their basic rights, they are also defending the rights of all unionized and non-unionized workers in BC. All poor, working and oppressed people should support them in their struggle.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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