More than 1,000 hospitality workers across more than a dozen B.C. cities – including hundreds of Harrison Hot Springs workers – face a lockout at the end of this week if UNITE HERE Local 40 and Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR) can’t come to an agreement by deadline.
Following a yet-unresolved labour dispute, the B.C. Labour Relations board delivered a 72-hour lockout notice to UNITE HERE on Tuesday, April 28. Members of the province-wide union held a press conference on Thursday (April 29).
UNITE HERE Local 40 executive officer Robert Demand expressed fears that 32 employers across B.C., including Harrison Hot Springs Resort, would rather fire current staff and replace them when the COVID-19 pandemic allows for travel again.
“Instead of working together during a crisis, many employers are undermining economic security, which could drive working conditions back decades,” Demand said. Demand pointed out that this lockout would disproportionately affect women and people of colour, who make up a majority of the affected workforce.
The previous contract between HIR and UNITE HERE expired in May 2020 and has been in negotiations ever since; there have been more than 13 bargaining sessions to date.
One of the main points of contention is the union’s push for extended recall rights, which would give current employees protection and allow them to return to work when work is available again. Demand said the union seeks job protection heading into the early summer months of 2023 as “a myriad of factors” related to the pandemic could further hinder the tourism industry for several more months.
UNITE HERE has written a letter to HIR calling on employers to join in asking Vancouver-based labour mediator Vince Ready to help both parties reach an agreement before 3:49 p.m. on Friday.
“We hope employers will take this approach to avoid lockout as a summer of tourism approaches,” Demand said.
Demand called on the provincial government to intervene on behalf of the tourism industry.
“This could have been stopped if the province stepped up and responded to the COVID crisis in hospitality with the same urgency they addressed the needs of healthcare workers,” he said.
Jan Budd, who could be affected by the lockout, has worked as a kitchen helper for more than 30 years at the Holiday Inn and Suites Vancouver Downtown.
“If my hotel locks me out, it will be a big financial burden,” she said during the April 29 press conference. “I’m barely getting by with the few shifts I’m working now. I’m 61 and I don’t want to start all over again at minimum wage.”
The communities affected by the current lockout threat are: Vancouver, Victoria, Coquitlam, Richmond, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Harrison Hot Springs, Kamloops, Castlegar, Fort St. John, Port Alberni, Mackenzie and Prince Rupert
Village of Harrison Hot Springs officials have declined to comment. The Observer has also reached out to Harrison Hot Springs Resort for further comment.