Staff at Richmond’s Pacific Gateway quarantine hotel strike for laid off coworkers

Staff at a quarantine hotel near YVR walked off the job and onto the picket line after the union says 103 workers at the hotel were laid off. Kier Junos reports on the job action that started early Monday morning.

RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) – Current and former workers of a federal quarantine hotel in Richmond have hit the picket line as they attempt to put pressure on management, and the federal government.

Banging drums, pots, and pans and sporting red signs on their chests, UNITE HERE Local 40 workers stood outside the Pacific Gateway Hotel, which has laid off dozens of workers during the pandemic, many of whom are women and recent immigrants.

Related: Workers at Vancouver airport quarantine hotel poised to strike

Among the striking workers is Elisa Cardona, who was a host at the hotel for seven years before she was permanently laid off last month. She was among the first to start demonstrating outside the hotel Monday morning, hoping to get her job back.

“We are hoping that it will disrupt the contract that the hotel has with the federal government and hoping that the federal government as well will stop supporting a hotel that gets rid of their workers and takes advantage of the pandemic and refuses to extend a recall for another year,” the single mother of two teenagers said.

“I just want to ask, (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau why is he supporting a hotel that gets rid of their own employees and takes advantage of the pandemic and hides behind the contract that the company has with the federal government. Why is Justin Trudeau not supporting women?”

The federal government took over the hotel to use as a quarantine site last year. The Red Cross makes up much of the quarantine staff, so people are still able to stay at the hotel as part of their mandatory quarantine once they return to Canada.

However, hotel staff say giving the work to Red Cross workers put the jobs of hotel staff at risk. According to the union, the hotel will replace terminated workers with non-unionized employees.

In a statement to NEWS 1130 Tuesday, Pacific Gateway says it remains open despite the picket line.

“The current collective agreement in place between PGH and the union expired in 2018. Negotiations have been stalled since February, and we are disappointed that the union has chosen to now strike instead of negotiating further,” an email from Hospitality Industrial Relations reads. “The employer has offered bargaining dates to the union, only to have them rejected.”

The statement says no lockout notice has been issued at the hotel, and that it looks “forward to a resumption of bargaining.”

“No employee at PGH has been fired, but there have been permanent layoffs – as mandated in the collective agreement – due to the pandemic’s impact on the entire hotel sector over the past year. Employees who worked at PGH during the pandemic are not subject to permanent layoffs,” the statement adds.

With files from Kurtis Doering

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