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Union blasts Hilton in Metrotown for mass layoffs due to COVID-19

Unite Here local 40 claims the hotel is refusing to return workers after the industry's slowdown has ended and business is back to normal levels
The Hilton Vancouver Metrotown is one of two hotels starting mass layoffs, according to a union representing the hotel's workers.
The Hilton Vancouver Metrotown has begun “mass firings” of long-term staff, according to the union representing the workers.

Unite Here Local 40 issued a news release on Thursday, Feb. 4 calling attention to the termination of a number of employees at two hotels – the Hilton in Metrotown and the Pacific Gateway Hotel near Vancouver International Airport.

Union spokesperson Stephanie Fung was unable to say how many employees have been affected by the move but said the union is working to find out the precise number of permanent layoffs. The hotel’s general manager did not immediately respond to a phone call from the NOW.

However, in a news release the union said it is believed “hundreds” more employees are expected to be laid off in the coming months, and both hotels have “refused” to return laid-off workers when the industry recovers.

Zailda Chan, president of the local, noted immigrant workers and women make up the “backbone” of the hotel industry, “many of them immigrants who have invested years in these hotels while supporting families and communities on these jobs.”

“Now, they are being discarded like workers out of a 19th-century garment factory. Workers will be taking action to stop the industry’s attack on women and immigrant workers. No one should lose their job because of the pandemic,” Chan said.

“The depths to which the industry will go to undermine the job security of women and immigrant workers is astounding. All the industry’s talk about being in this together is nothing more than lip service to lobby the government for more relief.”

While the provincial government has made use of many hotel rooms to house people facing homelessness and others who can’t otherwise isolate, the industry has been hard hit by the pandemic, with tourism all but cancelled in the last year.

In a recent presentation to city council, Tourism Burnaby provided figures on revenue generated from a tax on hotel visits. In all of 2020, the 2% hotel tax, which is levied on hotel rooms and short-term rentals and funds Tourism Burnaby, generated roughly $500,000 for the tourism organization. Just under $400,000 of that came from hotel rooms.

That’s less than a third of the more than $1.6 million generated by the tax in 2019 ($1.2 million of which came from hotel rooms).

Tourism Burnaby told city council it doesn’t anticipate the industry to fully recover for at least a couple of years.

The Metrotown and YVR hotels are just the latest to permanently lay off long-term staff, Unite Here noted, pointing to Coast Hotels layoffs in Victoria, Nanaimo and Prince George, as well as layoffs at the Pan Pacific Hotel and Shangri-La.

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