August 13, 2021 - No. 69
Hotel Workers Persist in Defending Their Rights and Dignity
Women Lead Lively Rally to Support
Fired and Locked-Out BC Workers
• Reinstate Montreal Union President Aida Gonçalves!
- Pierre Soublière
No to Ontario Government Backroom "Consultations"
• Injured Workers' Groups Demand Reversal of Cuts to Compensation for Injured Workers
Hotel Workers Persist in Defending Their Rights and Dignity
Unite Here! Local 40 organized a rally and sit-in to mark the
one-year anniversary of the struggle by BC hotel workers against
layoffs and other draconian actions during the pandemic by hotels in
the Lower Mainland. Over 300 hotel workers and their allies assembled
in front of the Hilton Metrotown hotel in Burnaby where workers have
been locked out since April 15. A band of drums and cymbals could be
heard from blocks away. Participants blew whistles and banged on pots
and pans surrounded by red signs saying "LOCKED OUT -- Unite Here!
Hotel workers were joined by members of many other unions including
the women leaders of the Canadian Labour Congress, the BC Federation of
Labour, the Canadian Union of Public Employees - BC, the BC General
Employees Union, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the BC Teachers'
Federation, the Hospital Employees Union, and
the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
There was a sea of union
flags which also included those of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local
1724, the Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers, the Health
Sciences Association, Richmond teachers and others. Migrante BC which
counts some of the hotel workers amongst its members,
and local, provincial and federal politicians also joined the action.
Another prominent sign said, "Do not use the pandemic as an excuse to
replace us." Another said, "High standards, low wages."
Unite Here! Local 40 organizer gave the first short speech in a
militant and impassioned manner. She said that 97 employees were
terminated by the Hilton Metrotown in mid-April -- a year into the
pandemic. When the workers protested by organizing a one-day strike on
April 15 the hotel locked them out and they have been locked out ever
since. She pointed out that the draconian actions of the Hilton are
part of a broader attack on hotel workers across the province. The
majority of these workers are women, she said, many of them single
parents, and added, "We are not going to take this pandemic
Two hotel workers described how they had worked
very diligently, helping to make the hotel a success, only to be
treated in a disrespectful and dismissive manner. Their lives, they
said, have become very difficult. A representative from the BC
Teachers' Federation said "Pandemic profiteering has to stop!"
unions regularly use the Hilton Metrotown for meetings, social
gatherings and for accommodation for out of town members attending
events in the Lower Mainland, and are currently boycotting the hotel
until it commits to rehiring all the workers.
Following the speeches the crowd marched to the nearby major
intersection of Kingsway and Willingdon, blocking the intersection
during rush hour and chanting slogans that included: What Do We Want? Respect!, Contract! When Do We Want It? Now!, We're Fired Up! Won't Take it No More!, No Justice! No Peace!, No Respect! No
Peace! No Health Care! No Peace! No Contract! No Peace!, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. All We Want Is Dignity!
Everyone then marched back to the hotel on McKay Street where the
band of drums and cymbals played again vigorously, people keeping time
with tapping toes. Before dispersing the crowd pledged with fists
upraised "We'll be back! We'll be back!"
Aida Gonçalves front and centre at a
hotel workers' rally
The Quebec Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) reported that
on July 23, the president of the Marriott Château Champlain hotel
workers' union in Montreal was fired by her employer the week before.
Aida Gonçalves had worked for the hotel for more than 30 years.
The union president was suspended, then fired, after workers carried
out a "visibility campaign" in the hotel lobby on July 8 to demand the
renewal of their collective agreement. Now the employer is refusing to
negotiate with the union if its president is at the table.
This firing has taken place while hotel workers everywhere are in
action in defence of their working conditions and their livelihood as
hotel owners, while complaining of staff shortages, are refusing to
respect the workers' right to recall and seniority as hotels reopen
following the pandemic measures. On July 22, hotel workers in Quebec
City demonstrated in front of the Delta and Hilton hotels, demanding a
collective agreement which respects their right of recall and seniority
retroactively to March 13, 2020. They are also asking for wage
increases of 2.1 to four per cent for each year of a four-year
On July 22, Quebec hotel workers held a symbolic picket in front of
the Hôtel PUR to express their solidarity with the 97 workers who
were fired by the Hilton Metrotown Hotel in British Columbia, owned by
DSDL Canada Investments, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hôtel PUR workers have also organized a letter-writing campaign
directed to the hotel owners demanding that DSDL stop mistreating hotel
workers across Canada and are providing financial aid for the fired and
locked-out workers of Hilton Metrotown. The BC Federation of Labour has
called for a boycott of the Hilton
Metrotown, calling on all unionized customers to not do business with
the hotel. A boycott was also instituted by the Alberta Federation of
Labour of the Varscona, Mettera and Matrix hotels in Edmonton, also
owned by DSDL.
Within this context, the firing of Aida Gonçalves must be
condemned far and wide as a further attack on hotel workers across
Canada and on the entire working class. She must be reinstated as a
necessary step in obtaining a satisfactory collective agreement which
treats workers with respect. As in other sectors such as health, staff
where they exist, can only be resolved by improving working and living
conditions, not by making them worse.
Hotel workers protest in
Marriott Château Champlain lobby on July 8, 2021
No to Ontario Government Backroom "Consultations"
On August 10 the Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers Support
Group (TBDIWSG) organized a Zoom meeting to firmly reject the Ontario
Ministry of Labour's "consultations" and plan on what to do with what
they call "surplus" Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) funds.
The government held a 26-day "consultation" which wrapped up on
August 10. It was only due to the work of the Thunder Bay injured
workers that it came to light that this was taking place, as neither
injured workers organizations nor labour organizations, such as the
Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), were informed of the consultations
invited to participate. Instead the announcement was buried in the
"employer" pages of the WSIB website.
Despite the attempts to silence injured workers' voices, the Ontario Network of
Injured Workers' Groups (ONIWG) has submitted its proposals on how the funds
should be used, as has the OFL and a number of injured workers who made submissions in their
own names. That injured workers and their allies were able to
immediately get together to challenge this latest suppression of their
voices speaks volumes about their ongoing work for justice and to end
their marginalization and about their persistence in carrying on
discussions and actions despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic.
Moderator Jules Tupker from the TBDIWSG stated that injured workers
vigorously object to the Ministry of Labour holding consultations on
how to disperse surplus funds without the input of those directly
affected -- the injured workers.
ONIWG President Janet Paterson led off the discussion by giving a
brief history of the cuts made to benefits paid to injured workers in
the recent period. She recounted that the WSIB's unfunded liability was
eliminated by 2018 through cuts and the suppression of injured workers'
claims. The government has the responsibility to ensure the WSIB
upholds the historic arrangement by which workers gave up the right to
sue their employers in return for an employer funded compensation
system that would fully compensate them for as long as their injury or
illness lasted, Paterson stated.
there can be any discussion of there being "surplus" funds in the
system, and how to give rebates to employers, the cuts to the WSIB
benefits must be reversed, Paterson pointed out, and after that any
additional available funds should go to improving benefits for
injured workers, many of whom live in poverty.
OFL President Patty Coates pointed
out that the government has a record of suppressing workers' voices,
and this case is no different. What the government is proposing to do
is beyond insulting to injured workers, to those who have lost their
lives and to their families, she said. The OFL's submission echoes
that of ONIWG, calling among other things for a restoration of WSIB
benefits to pre-1995 levels, before the Mike Harris government's cuts.
Orlando Buonastella from Injured Workers' Consultants pointed out
that for 26 years injured workers were sacrificed at the altar of the
so-called "unfunded liability" which was not in fact a debt and did not
threaten the WSIB's viability. The Canada Pension Plan, for example,
operates on the basis of being 40 per cent funded. Based on this
bogus "unfunded liability" injured workers faced two rounds of cuts.
The first, in 1995 under the Mike Harris government, cut a total of $15
billion from the system at immense human costs to the injured workers.
The second round, under the McGuinty government, cut the funding in
half. Meanwhile rates paid by employers into WSIB have been
reduced by 47.1 per cent and this latest consultation is about how to
again reduce the rates paid by employers.
Bobrowski, President of the TBDIWSG said that the Ministry of Labour
consultations had been brought forward at a meeting of the
organization's Platform for Change committee which decided immediate
action was needed to stop the Ministry's plan. He stated that the $4
billion surplus in WSIB funds is a scam against the people of
Ontario who pay the cost when the WSIB system does not justly
compensate injured workers and instead forces them onto social programs
such as the Ontario Disability Support Program. It is important that
injured workers take a stand, but also that all workers stand up and
oppose these measures that affect all of us, he said.
Steve Mantis, chair of ONIWG's Research Action Committee, who has
been studying the compensation system for the last 43 years, was the
last to make a presentation. He provided information on how the burden
of paying down the unfunded liability, which was originally to come out
of employers' WSIB contributions, fell on the backs of
injured workers as employer contributions were reduced. He provided
information about the situation faced by those with serious workplace
injuries who are unable to return to the work force and have been
abandoned by the Ontario government.
Following the presentation the floor was opened, first to questions
from the media and then for interventions from the many injured workers
and advocates participating.
Chénier, representing the Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L), said that
the experience of the injured workers is similar to that of the
unemployed. The federal government also invoked the fraud of unfunded
liability of the system to wreck the lives of the unemployed by
drastically reducing eligibility and cutting benefits, leading to a
"surplus" of over $60 billion which they then took possession of and
used to pay the rich through various schemes. At the moment, he said,
workers are fighting the dismantling of the occupational health and
safety regime in Quebec with the stated aim of saving $4 billion in 10
years for employers. There too injured workers' voices
are excluded. They had to vigorously protest to even be heard in
the public hearings, he said. He asked the injured workers groups
to elaborate on the work they are doing to have their voices heard.
Several workers responded, emphasizing the need for the voice of
injured workers to be heard by the public, to educate people on their
conditions and demands and how the compensation system operates. Steve
Mantis spoke about the work of the speakers schools organized by ONIWG
and its member groups in 8-10 communities to provide
injured workers with the skills and support they need to be able to
face a goliath of a system which has a great deal of control over their
lives and which can, and does, further penalize them when they speak
A lively discussion ensued with people sharing their experiences in
organizing for their rights and sharing submissions they had prepared
for the Ministry of Labour consultations on what to do with the
"surplus" funds. Speakers expressed their conviction that change was
needed now and that their voices must be heard. They also expressed
determination to be active in the upcoming 2022 Ontario election and to
hold all political parties and politicians to account.
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