Dozens of unemployed hotel workers from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland gathered on the steps of the B.C. Legislature building and demanded more support from the provincial government Tuesday.
Organized by Unite Here Local 40, which represents hotel and hospitality workers in British Columbia, Tuesday’s event included speeches from union representatives and those who have lost their job.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the hotel and hospitality industry extremely hard since mid-March. With travel restrictions in place and fewer guests, employers in the hotel and hospitality industries laid off thousands of workers.
In a brief speech on Tuesday, Zalinda Chan, the president of Unite Here Local 40, called on the provincial government to provide laid-off workers with a legal guarantee that they will be able to return to work. She said without legal protections, thousands of people are at serious risk of being permanently fired.
“Hotel workers are holding this protest today to deliver a powerful message to the provincial government,” Chan said. “We need a legal right to get our jobs back as soon as the industry recovers. Without a legal guarantee, 50,000 hotel workers can and will be fired.”
Hotel workers are already being permanently terminated from their jobs before the industry has even had a chance to recover, explained Chan, adding that employers are using the pandemic as an excuse to fire long-serving employes and avoid severance.
“Employers are not doing the right thing,” she said, later adding that hotel companies should be required to rehire their laid-off employees before they hire new workers.
Chan also said the province’s measures to protect health ended up putting thousands of people in the hotel and hospitality industry out of work. She said those unemployed workers now need the provincial government to support them, but that elected officials have been ignoring their calls for help.
“We want to know, why has the provincial government helped business but ignored laid-off hotel workers,” she said.
“Business asked the government to delay when they pay severance to workers, business got what they asked for but the government has not helped workers at all.”
At the end of the day, Chan said workers want protection and a legal guarantee that they will be able to return to their jobs and they want the provincial government to respond to their demands.
“It’s very simple. Do laid-off hotel workers have a legal right to return to their jobs, yes or no?” she said.