Nearly 1,000 workers at three luxury hotels in Vancouver walked off the job Thursday, as they continue to press for safer working conditions and more stable working hours.
Workers at the Hyatt Regency, Pinnacle Harbourfront and Westin Bayshore hotels launched an “indefinite strike” after contract negotiations broke down. They’ve been without a contract for over a year.
“Throughout the spring and summer, we held rallies, we continued in bargaining, but the members are very frustrated because bargaining has been very ineffective in getting the workers what they’re asking for,” said Sharan Pawa, a spokesperson for the workers’ union, United Here Local 40.
On Tuesday, workers organized a preemptive lunchtime strike outside of the Hyatt.
“They are frustrated,” Pawa said. “So now [Thursday] they’ve escalated to a full indefinite strike.”
statemPawa says services at the three hotels will be impacted.
“There already has been a drop in the level of service and quality, because no one is there to make beds properly or cook food to the same standards,” she said. “They will not be returning to work until they receive their contract.”
She said this is the first hospitality industry strike in Vancouver in two decades.
In an email statement to HuffPost Canada Saturday, Hyatt vice-president of labour relations Michael D’Angelo said he was disappointed in the action.
“Hyatt Regency Vancouver is disappointed that UNITE HERE elected to call a strike while negotiations continued. Hyatt has a long history of strong labor relations, and Hyatt Regency Vancouver remains willing to meet at the negotiating table,” he wrote.
D’Angelo says the hotel has met 26 times with the union since 2018 and had offered 15 per cent pay increases over four years, as well as increased safety devices in rooms, but the union rejected the offer.
“Hyatt’s purpose is to care for people so they can be their best, and the wellbeing and safety of our colleagues is a top priority,” he wrote.
‘We deserve a better workload’
Nym Valvez has worked at the Pinnacle Harbourfront for four years as a room attendant. She said the biggest challenge she’s faced as a worker is the workload.
“It is not easy for our bodies to clean 15 rooms every single day,” she told HuffPost Canada. “It’s very stressful. And we have to rush — sometimes usually we need our breaks just to finish rooms.”
WATCH: Dozens of workers share similar experiences at Boston hotel strike. Story continues below.
She said many attendants will forgo their mandated lunch or coffee breaks in order to meet room-cleaning quotas. She joked that the workers went on strike so management would have to experience how difficult their jobs are.
“It’s very disappointing, because the hotel industry and the management knows that we deserve a better workload,” she said.
Valvez said it’s been “very inspiring” to see workers from different areas of the hospitality industry come together to demand a better contract.
“If it’s not for us [the workers], hotels are not going to make that money and Vancouver is not going to be the tourism capital of the world,” she said.
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Tourism contributes almost $4.8 billion to the Metro Vancouver economy every year, according to Tourism Vancouver, with many of the more than 10 million visitors staying at hotels downtown.
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
Workers at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, a fourth hotel represented by Unite Here, have issued 72-hour strike notice, but they’re facing lockout threats from management.
Originally built in 1927, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia has hosted a variety of celebrities and dignitaries over the years including Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole and Queen Elizabeth II.
The hotel was recently named the number one hotel in Canada by U.S. News and World Report. It said “recent visitors said the staff’s attention to detail makes guests feel like royalty.”
While also represented by the same union, workers at the Hotel Georgia are on a different contract schedule than those at the other three hotels.
Last month, HuffPost Canada reported that four current and former female employees filed a human rights complaint against the hotel, alleging a culture of sexual harassment and abuse.
The women described “egregious and repeated sexual assaults and harassment at the hands of hotel guests” and allege the hotel’s management perpetuated an overly sexualized work environment, contributed to lewd comments about female workers, and failed to respond appropriately when they reported incidents of sexual assault.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with a September 21 statement from the Hyatt.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled Nym Vlavez’s name and stated that Hotel Georgia workers were locked out. They are facing the threat of a lockout.