For immediate release
March 30, 2020
An audio recording of the telepress conference can be streamed below, or click here to download a copy of the audio.
Today, leadership from across UNITE HERE Canada discussed the unprecedented economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on workers nationwide in industries as diverse as airlines, hotels, remote camps, and food service. With mortgages, utilities and rent coming due April 1, UNITE HERE Canada leaders called on public officials to take immediate action to ensure that hospitality workers, like all Canadian workers, can continue to live and pay their bills, and that those still working are recognized as essential employees.
Ian Robb, UNITE HERE Canadian Director and UNITE HERE Local 47 President
“We are the ones who work in housekeeping and food service in the camps and we are responsible for the cleaning and sanitizing of the site that thousands of working women and men from across Canada work and live in. I am asking my provincial and federal government officials to please set up support for these workers, my workers, because this province and country has a proud history of tourism and travel to build up again. These are the workers who know how to do it and need your support now.”
Zailda Chan, UNITE HERE Local 40 President, Vancouver
“Hospitality industry workers across B.C. are among the hardest hit by this global pandemic. In 2 weeks, 90% of hospitality workers in hotels, airports, food service & remote camps have lost their jobs. And yet we all know rent is due April 1. Hospitality workers across B.C. are asking: How am I going to pay my rent or mortgage? Can I afford my prescriptions? How am I going to put food on the table?
Hospitality workers helped generate over $20 billion for the BC tourism industry last year. Across Canada hospitality workers generated over $90 billion last year. Right now hospitality workers need 80% wage replacement, including tipped and part-time workers, and we need those cheques now. The stakes are high for working people.”
Kevin Porter, UNITE HERE Local 272 President, Ottawa
“As the world grapples with the unprecedented effects of Covid-19, our Union UNITE HERE Local 272 has been affected like most others across the United States and Canada.
The majority of our bargaining unit membership is made up of custodial service workers within the education sector in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. These employees are among the lowest paid within the entire province, and as such are suffering more due to this low wage rate. Yet our workers had to remain on the job in the schools longer than anyone else to provide cleaning services with little to no protection and/or appropriate training. They have since been laid off as a result of school closures across the entire sector, with no assurances as to when or how they will return to work or be paid beyond April 5, 2020. Workers who keep our schools clean and safe need to have a voice in the decisions that affect our children, families and communities.”
Guled Warsame, UNITE HERE Local 75 President, Toronto
“Local 75 is the hospitality workers’ Union in the GTA, representing over 8,000 workers. We are majority immigrants, people of color, women and families, earning around $20/hour in an expensive region like GTA. As travel stopped and schools shuttered, over 90% of our membership has been laid off.
We call on government to respect hospitality workers as the front-line workers they are. Government and industry must partner with the Union on any take-over of hotels related to the virus response. Hotel workers must be free to choose whether to work in dangerous conditions, and those who do must receive rigorous safety training, all necessary protective equipment and appropriate compensation. Any recovery effort for our industries must put the health, safety, and well-being of the workers and guests at the very center.”