Richmond hotel workers fear for future: Union

Around 125 hotel workers in Richmond are fearing for their future, after their employer entered into a quarantine contract with the federal government.

The laid-off employees – including long-serving room attendants, servers, cooks, bellmen, desk agents and maintenance staff – at the Pacific Gateway Hotel on Cessna Drive haven’t worked a day since the pandemic struck in March.

Only a skeleton crew of around 25 were called back in late spring, despite the hotel handing over a chunk of the premises to the federal government, to house people having to quarantine when arriving at YVR.

Part of the issue, according to the workers’ Unite Here Local 40 union, is the government apparently using Red Cross staff to perform duties that hotel staff could cover.

The union claims the hotel could have easily negotiated for its own staff to be utilized, much like what has happened at other airport hotels in Richmond.

And with the 12 months extended rights agreement almost up for some of its laid-off members, the union hosted a virtual press conference on Wednesday morning to plead with hotel management to come to the table.

“(Hotel management) could have easily said to the government that they needed to use some of their own staff,” said Robert Demand, Unite Here Local 40’s executive director, ahead of the press conference.

“If they don’t get extended recall rights, some of those workers will lose their jobs come January because the last time they worked was the last holiday season.

“The hotel are claiming they have no idea what the government is doing, which seems absurd. It has been like pulling teeth getting the management to talk about this.

“But we’re now in a critical period for our members right now and we need (hotel management) to come to the table.”

Demand said there is an upcoming arbitration scheduled for Dec. 7 and 8, where he desperately hopes to find a resolution.

“There are 150 long term workers there, some of who’ve been there for decades,” said Demand, adding that, although laid-off, their jobs are protected via extended rights for 12 months.

“There are great jobs in there, with veteran workers; the junior ones are 15 to 20 years’ service.

“The majority are women, women of colour. That group are really struggling with not having a good, stable, long term job. It’s imminent that people are going to lose their jobs and it’s wrong.”

Demand said the union is calling for an extension to the fall of 2022 of the members’ right to their jobs and a bigger effort to use the staff they can under the government’s quarantine contract.

He added that the hotel industry needed to be creative in March, especially with it being an airport city.

Demand pointed to other airport hotels in the city, where union members were called back in their droves to service temporary foreign workers, who would stay for two weeks’ quarantine, also under government contracts.

“The majority of staff were recalled to that hotel,” said Demand.

“Over at Pacific Gateway, their response was that the government took over and they have nothing to do with the operation.”

The move to use Red Cross workers, as opposed to current hotel staff, also “flies in the face of what the Prime Minister has been saying about workers keeping their jobs when possible,” added Demand.

The Richmond News has made several attempts to reach management at the Pacific Gateway for comment, without success.

© Richmond News