The Fight for Job Security During the Pandemic

Hotel Workers in Vancouver Are Not Backing Down in Their Fight for Their Jobs

There are new developments in the battle of workers in several Vancouver hotels to ensure that as hotels reopen, workers laid off due to the pandemic-related shutdowns retain their jobs. Unite Here Local 40 announced on January 20 that a class action lawsuit had been filed against the Pan Pacific Vancouver on behalf of workers wrongfully terminated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The case was filed by a worker who had worked at the hotel for 24 years until he was terminated, along with dozens of other workers, in August 2020. At the time of filing the workers at the Pan Pacific were not unionized but throughout their fight have had the support of unionized workers in other Vancouver hotels, most represented by Unite Here Local 40. The Pan Pacific is a high-end hotel in the Vancouver Convention Centre East owned by an affiliate of Westmont Hospitality Group. Westmont is one of the world's largest privately held hospitality companies.

In a January 20 press release, Unite Here Local 40 spokesperson Michelle Travis said, "Early in the pandemic, hotel management concocted a plan to drastically reduce its staff from 450 workers to 80 and dismiss the rest. Instead of informing workers of their plans, the company sent workers repeated messages delivering false hope suggesting they intended to bring workers back. Pan Pacific began terminating staff in batches, without cause or advance notice. The suit alleges that the hotel did this to avoid group termination provisions in the Employment Standards Act that requires advance notice and would trigger larger payouts to workers. Between firings, the hotel offered workers $250 to sign a contract taking away their regular full-time status to become casual, on-call workers and waive their severance rights. Those who refused to sign were among those fired."

Many of the workers are immigrants and women with families who have worked at the hotel for 20 to 30 years or more. The union estimates that the workers could be owed as much as $3 million if the lawsuit succeeds.

Hotel workers and other workers in the hospitality sector, in bars, restaurants and businesses providing services to tourists, have been demanding throughout the disruption caused by the pandemic, that employers and governments, both provincial and federal, ensure that their jobs are there for them to return to as things reopen. This court action is part of that ongoing fight.

On February 11 Unite Here reported that the Pan Pacific workers had voted in favour of joining the union.

(Photos: WF, Unite Here Local 40)

This article was published in

Volume 8 - February 19, 2021 - No. 8

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