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Hotel workers in GTA vote against defecting to Unifor, will remain with Unite Here

The Hilton Toronto Airport Hotel sign is pictured on June 3, 2015. .
The Hilton Toronto Airport Hotel sign is pictured on June 3, 2015. . Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

TORONTO – Thousands of workers at 17 Greater Toronto Area hotels have voted against defecting to Unifor and will stay with Unite Here Local 75.

The votes are a blow for Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, which has been attempting to raid other unions for workers since it left the Canadian Labour Congress in mid-December after complaining about the congress’ regulations around allowing workers to change unions.

Through the vote, Unifor managed to recruit 800 workers from four hotels. Those who defected are employed at the Courtyard Marriott, Marriott Bloor Yorkville, Westin Prince and Delta Toronto Airport hotel.

READ MORE: OPSEU attempts to mend rift between Unifor, Canadian Labour Congress

Ahead of Wednesday’s hotel vote, CLC president Hassan Yussuf and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas had urged Unifor to stop trying to recruit members of rival unions in January.

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On Thursday, Unite Here said Unifor tried to raid members from 24 of the 48 hotels it represents, which Unifor said resulted in a dozen votes. While Unite Here came out on top at the majority of the hotels, a winner was yet to be declared in the votes at the Hyatt Regency, Sheraton airport hotel and Four Points airport hotel.

Scott Doherty, the executive assistant to Unifor’s president Jerry Dias, said he was “confident” the results will indicate that the 399 workers at the three hotels voted in Unifor’s favour.

“We are pleased people were able to make a choice and the democratic process worked,” Doherty said.

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He is expecting results of the votes to be released in the next few weeks.

The delay in declaring a victor is stemming from a complaint from workers regarding the Ontario Labour Relations Board’s method of sealing ballot boxes.

The workers also raised concerns about Unifor’s tactics and asked for their signatures to be revoked from Unifor petitions because they were upset by “bullying in the workplace” and feeling “misled in the raiding efforts.”

READ MORE: Unifor splits with Canadian Labour Congress over lack of action regarding U.S.-based unions

In a release from Unite Here, Kayann Drummond, a guest services agent at the Sheraton Centre, also alleged that Unifor’s “entire set of actions have been to mislead and deceive workers in a blatant power grab.”

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In response, Doherty said, “I have no idea what they were referencing. We haven’t had access to the workplace.”

As for pleas for the union to stop raiding members and repair its relationship with the Congress, Doherty said, “we haven’t patched anything up, but are continuing to be open to having conversations on returning to the Congress.”