Hotel workers at Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel went on a one-day strike this past Saturday to send a message to owners and management.
The workers — which includes kitchen staff and room attendants — protested 14 months of stalled negotiations after their contract expired on May 31, 2012. It was the first strike by hotel workers in the Vancouver area in 13 years.
“The owners have been investing millions into the hotel, like expanding meeting spaces and with that, the workload has gotten heavier,” said Michelle Travis, the Unite Here! Local 40 spokesperson. “The workers see this happening around them, while they don’t even have wage parity with other hotels.”
Workers want wage, benefit and workload parity with other unionized hotels like the Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel. They would also like to meet with management directly to discuss hotel-specific issues.
However, Sheraton’s bargaining agent, Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR), represents 47 hotels in B.C. under one Master Collective Agreement, and does the negotiating.
“The Master Agreement is a collective agreement with terms and conditions of employment common to all 47-member hotels,” wrote Jason Koshman, an HIR spokesperson in an email. “No single hotel of the 47 negotiates separately with the Union.”
It’s something room attendant Jean Harvey wishes would change.
“HIR has too many hotels and Sheraton is so big compared to the other ones,” said Harvey. “We deal with different issues.”
Harvey has worked at the hotel on Westminster Highway for nine years, seeing it change from the Richmond Inn to the Sheraton in 2010.
With the change, she also saw a rise in the hotel’s status, new amenities and an increased workload for her and the other workers.
“The workload is more, but we’re still getting paid the same as before,” said the single mother of two. “It’s tough, the beds are heavy and we have to clean 16 rooms each, so that’s 32 beds to lift. We often say we’re working in pain.”
Harvey works 40-hour weeks and makes $16.75 an hour, whereas room attendants at Delta make at least two to three dollars more and clean 14 rooms a day. And, if Harvey calls in sick, she doesn’t receive pay.
HIR did not comment on what the employers brought to the table. “Out of respect for the bargaining process, HIR does not negotiate through the media,” wrote Koshman.
Last fall, the Newsreported on the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s press release in response to Canadian Business’s “Rich 100: The Richest Canadians in 2012.”
The Coalition’s release, “What does the other side of the ‘Rich 100’ look like?” featured another Sheraton room attendant Anna Wong, while the owners of the hotel, the Lalji family, placed 24th on the Rich 100 list.
“While the Laljis are now worth $2.25 billion, an increase of 9.7 per cent over last year, Anna makes just $16 an hour after working almost 20 years at the hotel. Despite seeing room rates at the hotel more than double in her time there, Anna’s wage has barely increased,” notes the release.
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