Workers strike to end second-class wages, benefits, heavy workloads
Sheraton Vancouver Airport workers held a one-day strike on Saturday, August 17, to protest fourteen months of management delays and stalled negotiations. This is the first strike by hotel workers in the Vancouver area in 13 years. Sheraton workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, are striking for good jobs in the tourism industry – one of the key drivers of Metro Vancouver’s economy.
Sheraton Vancouver Airport, owned by the Lalji family, who were ranked among the top 25 richest Canadians in 2012, serves as a stark example of why workers need better industry standards. Even though a room at the Sheraton can cost well over $200 a night, a room attendant cleans more rooms and changes more beds, but earns $2 an hour less, than her counterparts at competing union hotels, like the Delta Vancouver Airport. Their medical and pension benefits are also inferior to workers at other unionized hotels. To date, Sheraton management has refused to meet with workers and Local 40 to bargain over any hotel-specific issues.
"I am striking because we have seen no progress in over a year of bargaining," said Ana Wong, a room attendant for 22 years. "While the owners make a lot of money, we make peanuts compared to other union hotels and don’t have similar benefits. Our workloads are heavier too. We may change up to 32 beds a day, lifting heavy mattresses repeatedly. Sometimes we have to work through our breaks just to finish our work. I’ve seen so many co-workers injured because of the workload, but we don’t even have the same health benefits other unionized hotel workers have."
The Sheraton is one of 47 hotels, pubs and liquor stores currently in bargaining with their employers to improve working conditions in the hospitality industry. Little progress has been made in over a year of negotiations thus far. In July, workers from Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria, Kamloops, Harrison Hot Springs, Fort St. John and other communities voted to authorize strikes at their workplaces in response to the lack of progress in bargaining with owners and operators represented by Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR). The workers’ contract expired on May 31, 2012.
Strikes at other properties currently in bargaining with HIR are likely.
To inform hotel guests traveling to BC about potential job actions, Local 40 has launched a "Watch List" on our new customer website: www.BCHotelCustomerAdvisory.org.