On the Picket Line

British Columbia hotels carry out mass firings, layoffs, lockouts

By Fred Nelson
July 5, 2021

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — As the pandemic begins to wind down here, hotel bosses are moving to reopen or expand service and hitting some 50,000 hotel workers across British Columbia with layoffs, mass firings, and demands for wage cuts. These attacks aim to “strip away gains made by women who are the backbone of this industry and set them back to an earlier era,” said the UNITE HERE Local 40 website.

Workers at the Pacific Gateway Hotel next to Vancouver International Airport have been on strike since May 3. One hundred three workers had been fired, 42 of them the weekend before the strike began.

The Canadian federal government has been using this facility as a quarantine hotel and is using the Red Cross to do the work of the fired workers. “While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promises a ‘feminist recovery,’ a hotel taken over by his government is destroying living-wage jobs,” Stephanie Fung said in a UNITE HERE press release.

Workers at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown hotel were locked out in mid-April when 97 long-term employees were fired, just hours after the workers had staged a one-day protest strike. Bosses have been using government pandemic funds to pay managers while laying off workers.

Spirited picket lines up at both hotels are greeted with honks from passing cars and buses. “I walked out because my co-workers were fired. My manager looks at us like we’re a disease,” Marina Grkinic, a food-and-beverage worker, told the Militant. “They want to cut medical, dental benefits — everything.”

Surinder Sekhon, a cook for 41 years, said, “Unions are very important these days because without them people can get fired anytime. A union can stand up for you.”

“We will continue the fight until we win,” Fung said. “Solidarity from other unions is very important!” Support rallies are held every Thursday at 5 p.m.

The union has set up a Hilton Metrotown workers hardship fund at https://ca.gofundme.com/f/hilton-metrotown-workers-hardship-fund. Messages of solidarity can be sent to updates@local40union.com.