Unifor gearing up for bargaining at BC hotels

30575390By Daniel Tseghay

Throughout the summer, Unifor members at hotels in downtown Vancouver and Victoria will be in bargaining. Members at Hotel Vancouver, the Coast Coal Harbour, the Residence Inn, and Victoria’s Hotel Grand Pacific are looking to benefit from some of the incredible profits these high-end hotels are making every year.

Three of the four contracts between the union and the hotels end within the next two months, and one ends at the end of the year. The idea, says Mario Santos, Unifor National Representative, in an interview with RankandFile.ca, to bargain all contracts together and raise standards simultaneously.

Santos argues that this shouldn’t pose too many challenges for these highly-profitable hotels. While workers at these hotels make above the minimum wage, with housekeeper’s wages ranging from $17 to $20 an hour, that’s next to nothing compared to the profits at these hotels. “The reality is the hotel industry has done very well in Vancouver and Victoria,” says Santos. “They’re seeing record amounts of occupancy rates and the rates in some of the hotels are ludicrous. Sometimes it’s $2,500 a night. We’re there to ensure our members receive a bit of the gains that the hotels have had.”

The union is also looking to make gains for their members around gratuities, and pensions, housekeeping workload.

Housekeepers, making up the largest part of a hotel’s workers, are going through so many rooms and doing such strenuous work that injuries are common. “They’re repetitively pushing carts that can weigh about a hundred pounds,” says Santos. “I went to one hotel where almost every housekeeper was wearing some kind of a brace, whether it was a knee or a wrist brace.”

With bargaining underway the union fortunately has an important victory under its belt that it can look to in hopes of replicating. Last summer, the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, which is just next to the Grand Pacific, achieved wage increases and some workload relief for housekeepers.

“We have ambitious goals in this round of bargaining to ensure that our members share in the gains made by their hotels,” says Santos. “A unionized workplace is a safe workplace where workers are treated with respect and paid fairly for their labour.”


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