B.C. unemployment rates drop, hotel workers to go on a hunger strike for job security

B.C. unemployment rates drop, hotel workers to go on a hunger strike for job security
WatchB.C. is showing signs of improvement for its economy in recent months, but laid-off hotel workers are pushing for job security, by refusing to eat.

After weeks of protesting, hotel workers are upping the ante, ready to set up camp in front of the B.C.  legislature, this time for a hunger strike.

“If you’ve been laid-off due to the pandemic, we don’t think you should lose your job,” Michelle Travis of UniteHere Local40.

Starting Monday, some hotel workers say they will refuse to eat until they get a response from the province, guaranteeing first dibs on their old jobs when the economy reopens.

“What we’re seeing in some hotels is that some employers have used the pandemic to cut and fire laid-off staff,” said Travis. “They terminate their long term workers, they will open up those jobs to those that they can pay less, they can pay them minimum wage.”

Right now, they have no guarantee for their old positions, but it seems more and more jobs are reopening in the tourism sector, according to the province.

Of the 70,200 jobs that have returned to B.C. in the month of July, the province says 48,300 were in retail trade, food services, and accommodation.

Overall, B.C.’s economy is showing signs of improvement.

With tens of thousands of new jobs being added each month, the unemployment rate is slowly dropping, sitting now at 11.1 per cent.

Even with promising numbers, some say it doesn’t all add up to what it seems to be.

“It’s replacing full-time jobs with part-time jobs, and at the same time, those holding on to their jobs are working less hours than they normally would,” said Herb Schuetze, an associate economic professor at the University of Victoria.

Even with a possible bailout from the province, the professor goes on to say it’s not just about the amount of money but how it’s used, which could include training and redirecting labour where it’s needed.

“If it means you will be out of work for two years, then maybe it’s worthwhile retraining and moving some of those workers who have the biggest impact on them, to other jobs that might be available currently,” said Schuetze.

As for the union and protesters, they say this is just the beginning.

“There’s no end in sight, its an open-ended hunger strike that will go on until we get a response from the government,” said Travis.

The strike is scheduled to begin Monday morning at 10 a.m. at the legislature.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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