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B.C. hospitality workers’ union calls government wage subsidy approach a ‘bailout for businesses’

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B.C. hospitality workers' union says government's wage subsidy approach is a 'bailout for businesses'

UNITE HERE Local 40 wants to see a wage replacement that would directly benefit workers who have been laid off

Workers at hotels, restaurants, stadiums, airports hit hard by financial crisis brought on by COVID-19

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The government’s expanded wage subsidy plan still falls short of what the union representing hospitality workers is calling for.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that all businesses, regardless of how big they are, will be eligible for the government’s increased wage subsidy, so long as they can prove their business has gone down at least 30 per cent because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I think this is a bailout for businesses, because ultimately they will have all the power,” said Zailda Chan, with UNITE HERE Local 40 in Vancouver. “They’ll have the power of whether or not to bring people back and how many people to bring back.”

She explained 90 per cent of her members have already been laid off from places such as hotels, restaurants, and airports, and any wage subsidy isn’t going to help those who work part-time or in the gig economy.

Instead, the union wants to see an 80 per cent wage replacement, which would take effect immediately and include income gained through tips.

“The government has a very good understanding of the problem and the urgency of this crisis. I think they’ve being a little bit timid in making bold moves and really coming through on workers.”

The prime minister announced last week the wage subsidy would be increased from 10 per cent to 75 per cent to help businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks.

The crisis has brought the travel and tourism industries to a virtual standstill.

There have been a number of layoffs and reductions in services country-wide after the pandemic forced communities to implement stricter physical distancing measures.

“I’m concerned whether employers will even bring back their employees with this subsidy, or if they’ll stay closed instead because that would be cheaper for them,” Chan said. “It might be more sustainable for them to not open their doors.”

Chan added a wage replacement would directly benefit workers who’ve lost their jobs.

Trudeau has warned businesses against trying to take advantage of the wage subsidy expansion, and threatened “serious consequences” against anyone looking to scam the system.

-With files from Marcus Fitzgerald and Lisa Steacy