The union representing more than 70 Prince Rupert hotel and hospitality workers announced a 72-lockout-notice has been filed by the employers’ group representing the Highliner Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre, Belmont Liquor Store, and Prestige Prince Rupert Hotel.
Unite Here Local 40 stated in a media release on April 28 that Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR) an employer group representing more than 32 hotels, motels, and liquor stores across B.C. filed the notice with the Labour Relations Board on April 27, for a 72-hour notice until 3:49 p.m. on April 30.
“More than 1,200 hospitality workers and their families in 14 communities will be affected if the lockout goes into effect,” the Local 40 release stated.
“Hospitality employers are refusing to commit to retaining their workers — mostly women and people of colour who served their hotels for years, to get through the COVID-19 crisis.”
“Without a commitment to return workers to their jobs when the COVID crisis is over, more hospitality workers will be terminated,” Local 40 stated.
“Mass pandemic firings have been used as a threat to roll back decades of economic gains,” the union stated citing as an example Hilton Metro Vancouver when weeks ago locking out hotel workers after firing 97-long term staff.
Unite Here Local 40 is calling on the HIR to jointly request mediation and find a path forward to address the impact of the pandemic on hospitality workers and their employers.
Kevin Wooliams labour relations consultant with HIR, told The Northern View that while the organization does not discuss ongoing matters nor do they negotiate in public, there has been no active collective agreement since May 2020.
“What I would say is HIR has reached deals with virtually every other union in the province since the pandemic started,” he said. “And we haven’t with this group.”
“The positive piece is if we are still negotiating we are still working towards a settlement to reach the other side of this pandemic,”.
Wooliams said the two sides will be back around the bargaining table on April 29.
“This industry has been devasted and the recovery of it, the unionized portion, is critical in this round of negotiations,” he said. “So, let’s get back to bargaining.”
Ashley Daigle general manager at the Prestige Hotel said that her understanding is negotiations came to a standstill but will be resuming. However she said, while one employee member came to her with concerns on April 28, not many others had even heard about the lock-out situation.
“The union has been without an agreement for almost a year, and we’re trying to negotiate. … Other than that, they haven’t really given us a tonne of detail,” she said. “My understanding is that HIR has been trying to get the union to the table to negotiate.”
Daigle said she has been in a management position for nine years at her current place of employment and while there has been lockout talk previously, she has never seen it come to fruition in Prince Rupert.
“I feel like we just have to get on the same page,” she said. “My people are like my family. I would not want to see them suffer … Personally, the answer is ‘No’, I would not want to lock my team out.”
“I’m sure everybody’s going to keep working to the best that they can right now. And I don’t think from an employment perspective it is going to affect anybody at this time,” she said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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