For immediate release
September 17, 2010
7th and 8th one-day strikes call for an end to Westmont's cutbacks
TORONTO- Hotel workers at the Toronto Hilton (145 Richmond St. West) and the Hilton Toronto Airport (5875 Airport Rd) have staged a one-day walkout to protest cutbacks at the two hotels, owned by Westmont affiliates. Picket lines will go up at 7 AM.
"They tell guests that all the food is fresh and wild, but more and more food is coming pre-prepared," said Joe Drumonde, a cook at the Hilton Toronto Airport. "I spent years training as a chef. Not only are my skills being ignored, they’re cutting back hours for everyone in the kitchen. We can’t make enough of a living to raise our families."
Workers at both Hilton hotels will be joined by other hotel workers and supporters for rallies at 5 PM.
The hotels that have participated in the rotating one-day strikes during the last two weeks are all owned or managed by affiliates of Westmont. In total, Westmont employs over 2,000 members of UNITE HERE Local 75, the union representing hotel workers. Most of these workers have been without a new contract since February.
Like other hotels hit by strikes, Hilton room attendants report painful injuries. "I’ve had to clean so many rooms each day that I’ve injured my shoulder," said Laura Mestre, who has been a room attendant for three years at the Hilton Toronto. "But I especially worry about the workload for room attendants who are getting close to retirement."
Westmont purchased its first hotel in North America in 1975, and grew quickly by partnering with Goldman Sachs and others. It moved into luxury markets with the help of investors like the Quebec pension fund Caisse de Depot. In the early 2000s Westmont bought the Hyatt Regency, Westin Prince, Delta East, Fairmont Royal York and the Hilton hotels with the help of pension fund investors.
The Westmont Group, founded and run by members of the Mangalji family, is currently one of the world’s largest private hotel owners. The Mangalji family is known for its philanthropy; members of the family have served on the Boards of the Aga Khan Foundation and UNICEF among others.
"Hotel workers from all across the world work in the Mangaljis’ Toronto hotels," said Paul Clifford, President of UNITE HERE Local 75. "We have helped make Westmont and the Mangaljis very successful. But the message we are sending today is that there is one way the Mangaljis could promote social development and economic recovery that outshines all others: to ensure that hotel workers’ hard work is fairly rewarded."
In both Canada and the U.S., the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger from the recession than expected but hotel workers are not sharing in that improved fortune, according to the union. Local 75 represents over 7,000 hotel, hospitality and gaming workers in the Greater Toronto Area. For more information, please visit www.uniteherelocal75.org.