By Alan Campbell
The union representing 150 hotel workers in Richmond has hit out at the federal government, for apparently riding roughshod over their members’ rights.
The Richmond News reported last week how the majority of the Unite Here Local 40 members working at the Pacific Gateway Hotel on Cessna Drive had been out of work since March due, in part, to the government using the hotel as a quarantine site for people arriving at YVR.
The union has tried and failed to get answers from hotel management as to why they didn’t negotiate for its own employees to be used for quarantined guests.
They had hoped to seek a resolution before the workers’ extended rights expired in January, but the union has been told that the government’s use of the hotel will continue until March, 2021.
According to the union, hotel management claims the government now controls the hotel and has told workers that the takeover will extend beyond workers’ right to be recalled to their jobs - most of whom have served the hotel for decades.
The union had previously asked management to extend the 120 laid-off workers’ rights through to the fall of next year.
“The failure of the federal government to make sure hotel workers aren’t hurt by its takeover of the Pacific Gateway is astounding,” said Zailda Chan, local union president.
“Workers at the hotel - predominantly women and immigrant workers - have been kept in the dark for months about the duration of the federal contract and why feds are using a contractor to perform hotel workers’ duties.
“Now the hotel is suggesting workers could permanently lose their jobs because of the extended federal contract.
“This is unacceptable from a federal government which has given lip service to caring about workers hard-hit by the pandemic. We want to know how the government plans to resolve this situation - one in which their actions will cause hotel workers to lose their jobs.”
The News has reached out to the hotel and the federal government for comment.
The laid-off employees include long-serving room attendants, servers, cooks, bellmen, desk agents and maintenance staff.
Only a skeleton crew of around 25 were called back in late spring, despite the hotel handing over a chunk of the premises to the federal government, to house people having to quarantine when arriving at YVR.
Part of the issue, according to the union, is the government apparently using Red Cross staff to perform duties that hotel staff could cover.
The union claims the hotel could have easily negotiated for its own staff to be utilized, much like what has happened at other airport hotels in Richmond.