Current Struggles in Defence of Rights
Vancouver Hotel Workers’ Strike
Hotel workers employed at four downtown Vancouver luxury hotels are continuing their militant strike struggle in defence of their rights and dignity after a court order issued on October 3 limited the striking workers’ ability to disrupt hotel operations and inform the public about their just demands.
On October 10 hundreds of striking hotel workers and their supporters rallied and marched in front of the Marriott Parq Hotel. Marriott is the owner of the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel, one of the hotels whose workers are on strike. Amongst the numerous unions present at the rally were UNITE HERE Local 40, Teamsters, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, BC Teachers’ Federation, Hospital Employees’ Union, Health Sciences Association, BC Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. A post on the UNITE HERE Local 40 Facebook page on the rally declared: We have the power! Vancouver is OUR city!
At an October 8 press conference organized by Unite Here Local 40 outside the Marriott-owned Westin Bayshore Hotel, BCGEU President Stephanie Smith announced that her union was making a $3-million interest free loan to the the hotel workers’ union.
The BC Federation of Labour has put its full weight behind the hotel workers. On October 9, it called on all its affiliated unions to cancel bookings at the four hotels where workers are on strike and to avoid future events at the hotels.
The hotel workers are calling on other workers and the general public to support them as they are on the front lines fighting to stop the drive of rich private interests to push down the wages and working conditions as well as eliminate any semblance of job security for all workers.
Workers employed at the Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore, and Pinnacle Harbourfront hotels, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, walked off the job on September 19 after fourteen months of bargaining with negotiators representing the hotels. Outstanding issues include workload, safety and job security. Large and loud picket lines were immediately set up outside the three hotels. Three days later the strikers were joined on strike by about two hundred workers employed at the Hotel Georgia, which the owners claim to be the number one hotel in Canada. These workers belong to a separate bargaining unit of Local 40. Their demands are similar to the other workers plus they are demanding a guaranteed end to on the job sexual harassment by hotel management and customers.
On October 7 activists from Renewal Update visited all four picket lines, holding discussions with workers and distributing copies of the September 25 issue of Renewal Update which contained an article on the strike. Several workers told Renewal Update that the outcome of the October 21 federal election will make no difference to them. No matter what the outcome workers must continue to defend their rights and fight for acceptable wages and working conditions. Large numbers of striking workers marched in front of the hotels shaking noise makers and banging on pots, accompanied by a drummer. They chanted slogans such as: One Day Longer, One Day Stronger!; What Do We Want? Respect! When Do We Want It? Now!; No Contract. No Peace. No Justice. No Peace.
A striking room attendant at the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying “We want to make noise because we want the public to know this is what we are fighting for and we deserve a fair contract. They think if they take our noise makers we are going to stop striking. That’s not going to happen.” Sharon Pawa, spokesperson for UNITE HERE Local 40, stated in a union press release: “We will abide by this decision (court order) and continue to demonstrate and strike for standards that will transform the way that rich corporations and developers treat workers in Vancouver. All our members understand there is going to be hardship. We need to make some sacrifices but this is about our future.”
(Photos: UNITE HERE)