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Burnaby hotel workers launch job action in wake of 'mass firings'

COVID-19 has devastated the hotel industry

A group of Burnaby hotel workers launched job action today (Friday) in the wake of what they called “mass firings” stemming from COVID-19 impacts on tourism.

Workers at the Hilton hotel in Metrotown in Burnaby have initiated a partial strike action over job security.

More than 97% of 145 workers at the hotel recently voted in favour of a strike, according to union Unite Here Local 40, which issued 72-hour strike notice on Feb. 12.

The workers claim Hilton has refused to extend workers’ right to return to their jobs beyond 12 months.

"This move comes after Hilton Metrotown began mass firings of long-term workers last week, with more expected in coming weeks," the union told Glacier Media in a statement. "Hilton Metrotown has refused to recall their staff as the industry recovers. The firings will disproportionately hit women of colour, who have long served this hotel."

The hotel's general manager Chris Perna spoke with BIV briefly and said, "I have no comment at this moment."

Hotels across the world have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted general public reluctance to travel as well as government restrictions on travelling.

Unite Here Local 40 spokesperson Michelle Travis told BIV that many workers at the hotel had been laid off since early in the pandemic, and 30 were terminated last week, when the employer could have kept them as being laid off. 

Workers at the hotel have been without a contract since before the pandemic, she said, and while negotiations have been ongoing for a new contract, the union was in a position to strike. 

The news comes on the heels of news (February 11) that around 75% of 165 workers at the Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel voted to unionize and join Unite Here Local 40. 

Unite Here also represents workers at Vancouver's Westin Bayshore, Hyatt Regency, Pinnacle Harbourfront and Hotel Georgia hotels. It led strikes at those hotels in bids to get better contracts in the fall of 2019. 

- With additional reporting by Business in Vancouver