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B.C. hospitality workers agree to new contract after protests

B.C. hotel workers are holding a hunger strike in Victoria in August 2020. They are calling on the province to support people in the industry who have been laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Twitter/Unite Here Local 40)

Protests have been held by hospitality workers calling for job security during and after the pandemic

After more than a year and a half, the union representing hotel workers say they have reached a deal

The agreement includes an extension of recall rights as the pandemic continues to impact the industry

RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) — After an 18-month fight, the union representing B.C.’s hospitality workers says it finally has a new contract with their employers.

Unionized hotel, pub, and liquor store workers across B.C. have voted to ratify a new four-year contract with Hospitality Industrial Relations, according to their union.

Eighty per cent of UNITE HERE Local 40 members agreed to the deal, which includes an extension of recall rights for the duration of the pandemic through to July 1, 2023. The agreement means workers can return to their jobs and seniority as businesses recover from the effects of COVID-19. Without the contract, employees who had been laid off would be terminated if they were not brought back to work within a certain time frame.

The union says it fought back against an industry attack to replace living-wage jobs with minimum-wage work, and eliminate union health and pension benefits.

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Its members only agreed to settle if their pension, health care, severance pay, and workload were protected.

The new contract covers hospitality workers in Vancouver, Victoria, Coquitlam, Richmond, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Abbotsford, Harrison Hot Springs, Kamloops, Castlegar, Port Alberni, Mackenzie, Prince Rupert, and Fort St. John.

Earlier this year, hospitality workers staged a number of rallies in front of Harrison Hot Springs Resort, Holiday Inn Vancouver, Hilton Metrotown, and other locations, calling for more protections for workers.

Those protests included a hunger strike which was staged in Victoria, calling for the provincial government to give laid-off workers a legal right to return to their jobs once the business and tourism sector return.

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The union says it will continue to fight against several B.C. hotels which have not committed to returning workers to their jobs.

The union also highlights its Unequal Women campaign which was launched to shine a light on the impact the pandemic has had on women and immigrants.

According to Statistics Canada, more women than men lost employment or suffered cutbacks to their hours due to the pandemic, and those working low wage jobs were disproportionately impacted, as were racialized, immigrant, and Indigenous women.