Vancouver hotel workers vote in favour of strike

Unionized workers at three Vancouver hotels have voted in favour of strike action, Unite Here Local 40 says.

According to the union, the hospitality workers at the Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore, and Pinnacle Harbourfront, which are all located downtown, are taking a “stand resolute against increased precarity in the hotel sector.”

Workers say wage increases and job security are among their key demands, as the cost of living continues to skyrocket and the housing market becomes even more unaffordable.

“Our hotels are packed this summer and are charging customers more than ever, but we aren’t getting our fair share. We want to earn enough to live in the city where we work. We struggled during the pandemic, while the hotel industry received billions in government help. Now our hotels are doing great, but we’re still left behind. Hospitality workers deserve a future in this city if Vancouver expects to have a vibrant tourism sector,” said Naden Abenes, a Hyatt Regency room attendant who’s been working for 15 years.

The union says a recent survey it conducted found 89 per cent of hotel workers who took part said they’ve had to give up something, such as family support or a medical procedure, due to the rising cost of living. Others reported giving up fresh food.

Naden Abenes has been a room attendant at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Vancouver for 15 years. She says hotels have been doing well since tourism resumed post-pandemic, but wages haven’t increased.

Abenes says she and some of her colleagues have been forced to move outside of Vancouver or cut down on fresh food because of the high cost of living.

“I cut down on pleasure, going out with my friends, restaurants, movies — and I have to make sure what I eat, I cut down on that too,” she said.

“Tourists come from all over the world, spend a lot of money and our room rates have skyrocketed to $500 … $1300 a night … while the company is doing so well, we’re left behind.”

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Unite Here Local 40 warns picket lines could be set up at the three hotels after the members issue strike notice, should an agreement not be reached.

This would come at a time when the union says downtown hotel business “is booming.”

“Vancouver has the highest hotel occupancy and highest average daily room rates across major Canadian markets. In May, the average room rate in downtown Vancouver was $332 per night, while revenue per available room was up 22.5 per cent over the same period last year, according to CBRE,” the union said in a release Tuesday.

It adds unionized workers from hotels including the three mentioned launched a strike in 2019, at which time new wages, working conditions, and sexual harassment protections were negotiated.

Other members of Unite Here Local 40 are already under strike at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport and Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport.

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