Potential end to 1-year hotel strike in sight as Hilton Metrotown workers reach tentative agreement

·2 min read
Hilton Vancouver Metrotown is pictured in Burnaby, British Columbia. Striking workers could return to the hotel more than a year after their strike/lockout began. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Hilton Vancouver Metrotown is pictured in Burnaby, British Columbia. Striking workers could return to the hotel more than a year after their strike/lockout began. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Striking workers at the Hilton Metrotown hotel in Burnaby have reached a tentative agreement with their employer, potentially bringing an end to what the union is calling the longest hotel strike in provincial history.

Dozens of workers have been out of work since April 15, 2021, when what management called a strike and the union called a lockout began, following the firing of 97 housekeepers, front desk, and kitchen workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The workers have been picketing the 283-room hotel since then, with management running the day-to-day operations.

The year-long dispute concerned better working conditions and a demand for better job security, particularly for longtime workers, according to Stephanie Fung, the communications organizer with UNITE HERE Local 40.

"It has been a long duration of talks with the hotel and just coming up to a year today," Fung told CBC News. "I think workers should be proud of themselves for going through this challenging process."

A tentative agreement with hotel management was reached at 1 a.m. Tuesday after two days of mediation, according to the union.

Workers will vote to ratify the agreement on Wednesday. If it is ratified, return to work would begin on Thursday.

In a statement, hotel management said it would not be commenting on the deal until after it is ratified. More details about the new contract will be released then, according to the union.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

'Roller-coaster of emotions'

Fung says the workers, many of whom are women of colour, are going through "all the feelings" after the announcement of the tentative agreement.

"I think it's been a roller-coaster of emotions for these workers," she said. "Everything from anger, sadness, outrage, to … feeling motivated, encouraged by so much support from the community."

The workers had received support from federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Burnaby city council during their year-long job action.

There had been multiple mediation attempts between the two sides, according to the hotel, which had offered to resolve the dispute through binding arbitration last month.

But Fung said that workers were "always ready" to meet and negotiate with the hotel if they were able to bargain in good faith.

She says the tentative agreement, after more than a year of striking, showed the power of collective action.

"It goes to show that when we all fight together, we win," she said. "It is possible for people, for working people, to change the conditions of their lives."

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