Union protesting at Nanaimo hotel in midst of contract negotiations

CARLA WILSON

Times Colonist

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A protest is planned for late afternoon today outside the Coast Bastion Hotel in Nanaimo to support union workers who lost their jobs in the wake of the pandemic.

The action comes as UNITE HERE Local 40 and the hotel at 11 Bastion St. are in the midst of contract negotiations.

Last year, 42 union employees were laid off after the pandemic arrived in spring 2020, leaving 50 other union members on the job, Stephanie Fung, Local 40 spokesperson, said Thursday.

Workers served guests, cleaned guest rooms, greeted visitors at the front desk, cooked and served meals in the restaurant. Many were longtime hotel employees, she said.

The collective agreement allowed for nine months in terms of recall rights for those jobs, Fung said. A recall right means that a laid-off employee would have the right to be called back to work by an employer.

In December, the workers who were laid off were terminated permanently and paid out, she said.

Since then, between 10 to 15 new employees have been hired. They were not among staff laid off last year, Fung said.

The collective agreement between the hotel and union ran from May 1,2018 to April 30 this year.

Parties have been talking, and the next bargaining day is Sept. 27.

The union is seeking unlimited recall rights, Fung said.

“The hotel is looking to get rid of hard-won economic gains workers have made over decades, including increasing housekeeping workload, reducing pay, eliminating the severance plan, and job security,” Fung said.

Jodi Westbury, director of marketing and communications for Coast Hotels, said the hotel group is in active bargaining with the union.

“We are meeting, exchanging proposals and making a sincere attempt to reach an agreement and will continue to keep bargaining at the bargaining table.”

The hospitality sector, along with the rest of the tourism industry, has been hard-hit by the impact of COVID-19. Months of restrictions on travelling, border closures and fewer travellers have damaged the accommodation sector’s bottom line.

“The industry and the hotel continue to be severely negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the only place to resolve these issues is at the bargaining table,” said Wesbury.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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