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Richmond quarantine hotel lost federal contract over treatment of unionized workers

The Pacific Gateway Hotel laid-off 143 long-term workers since the pandemic, in favour of government-contracted Red Cross staff
Pacific Gateway Hotel

A Richmond hotel’s quarantine contract with the federal government was terminated due to its “treatment of unionized workers.”

The Richmond News reported earlier this week how the Pacific Gateway Hotel’s contract with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) – to provide quarantine services to travellers arriving at YVR – was torn up late last month.

Since March 2020, the hotel had been primarily used by the PHAC for the aforementioned function, with Red Cross workers reportedly replacing the duties of 143 long-term, unionized workers, who have since been let go.

But in a statement given to the News, a spokesperson for the PHAC said that it was “no longer doing business with Pacific Gateway Hotel” and that the hotel’s “actions were concerning,” in reference to the mass redundancies over the last 22 months.

“…we have expressed our disappointment with Pacific Gateway and their treatment of their unionized workforce throughout these challenging times. The health and safety of Canadians remain our top priority,” added the spokesperson.

Over the last 22 months, no one from the hotel, on Cessna Drive, has responded to the News’ requests for comment, including this week.

The PHAC spokesperson said that another “facility was designated” to receive quarantined travellers, but the location of the hotel could not be disclosed for the “privacy and security of travellers.”

The laid-off workers’ union, Unite Here Local 40, said about 70 per cent of the hotel’s workforce “has been terminated” since the start of the pandemic, with the remainder “on strike.”

The union has called for a boycott of the hotel, if and when it returns to its former status.

“Finally, the federal government has heard our calls to move out of Pacific Gateway,” said Jillian Louie, a former Pacific Gateway server, earlier this week.

“We asked MPs across the political spectrum and PHAC to stop bankrolling the hotel. I worked there for 28 years, but the owners took advantage of the COVID-19 crisis and terminated most of us.

“That’s not right. No one should spend money at a hotel that treats us like we’re disposable,”

Over the last 22 months, the displaced, and subsequently laid-off, workers, met with MPs, testified before parliamentary committees and held protests urging federal ministers and the PHAC to end the government’s use of the hotel.

Workers went on strike in May 2021 in response to the hotel’s mass terminations and, near the end of last year, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh wrote to federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, questioning the continued use of the hotel at the expense of long-term jobs.

The Liberal MP for Richmond Centre – Wilson Miao – was also asked to intervene by the union on behalf of the workers.

He never responded to the union, or to the News’ requests for comment last year.