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Workers at federal quarantine hotel in Richmond vote to strike

Unite Here Local 40 claims the Pacific Gateway Hotel has plans to terminate the majority of its workers by the end of March
Unite Here Local 40 said workers at the Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond have voted to strike.

Workers at a federal quarantine hotel in Richmond have voted 91 per cent in favour of a strike, according to the union.

Unite Here Local 40 said Friday that picket lines could go up at any time after a 72-hour strike notice is issued.

The union said that staff at the Pacific Gateway Hotel, on Cessna Drive, near the Vancouver International Airport, voted to strike after the hotel terminated laid-off workers, including women who had worked for the hotel for nearly two decades.

The union claims the hotel is refusing to recall staff when business recovers, and has plans to terminate the “majority of its workers by the end of March.” 

Stephanie Fung, spokesperson for the union, told the Richmond News that one dozen workers were terminated in early February and around 150 are at risk of permanently losing their jobs. 

“I’m a single mom with two kids ages 12 and 13. I need my job. The government should be protecting our jobs so we can return when business comes back,” said Elisa Cardona, a laid-off hostess who worked at Pacific Gateway for 7 years, in a statement.

“If Pacific Gateway gets away with firing us, other hotels will follow suit. That’s why we are going to fight back; we can’t let this happen.”

The hotel’s actions will impact women of colour the most, particularly older immigrant women from the South Asian, Chinese and Filipino communities, according to the union.

Red Cross workers were brought in to look after quarantined hotel guests on behalf of the government, the union said, displacing employees. Fung, the union's spokesperson, said there's currently only a “skeleton crew of about 20 to 30 (hotel) workers” that have been able to work at the hotel since the federal government began using it as a quarantine facility last 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, president of Unite Here Local 40, in a statement.

“Workers at the hotel – predominately 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.”

The Richmond News has reached out to the Pacific Gateway Hotel for comment.