Vancouver Hotel Workers’ Strike in Defence of Their Rights and Dignity
On September 19 several hundred hotel workers from the Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle Harbourfront hotels, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, walked off the job. The outstanding issues, after fourteen months of bargaining, include workload, safety and job security. A press release issued on September 19 states: “Many of the city’s hotel workers are struggling to provide for their families with precarious, on-call shifts caused by the systemic cutting of hours in these hotels. Safety remains a priority in this dispute, as many workers have stepped forward with complaints of sexual harassment faced on the job, and extreme under-staffing has led to unsafe and unsustainable workload levels. Vancouver’s downtown hotel workers stand together for better quality jobs and an improved quality of life.”
The workers are cooks, servers, front desk agents, maintenance workers, bellmen, kitchen staff, room attendants, housemen, etc.
In August the workers voted 89 per cent in favour of strike action if necessary to back their demands for more stable work hours, safer working conditions and protection from on the job sexual harassment. One worker who has been employed at the Hyatt Regency as a room attendant for 11 years told Star Metro Vancouver that the most important issue for her is “workload.” The hotel has reduced the hours of housemen who help with heavy lifting and moving beds. These tasks now fall on room attendants, resulting in numerous injuries. “Every day the hotel pushes us harder.” Room attendants who used to work full time, five days per week have seen their work week cut to as little as two days per week. Union spokesperson Sharon Pawa said the workers “are fighting for safe and sustainable jobs…that includes increased safety protections-including women’s safety and workload protections, including proper staffing. What’s happening as the hotel industry expands and grows, and generates more profit the hotels are cutting hours, reducing staff and this is increasing the workload.”
A survey conducted by the union in July in which 190 workers, 98 per cent of them women, participated, revealed that 56 per cent of the workers at the Hyatt reported “unwanted touching from guests.” As a result of the resolute stand taken by the workers three of the hotels have agreed to measures to protect workers from on the job sexual harassment.
(Photos: UNITE HERE 40)