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Union calls for investigation into worker mistreatment at Pan Pacific Vancouver

Housekeepers, union organizers and their supporters rally outside the Pan Pacific Vancouver on Oct. 19, 2021. They allege they were fired during the pandemic based on their sex and race. Global News

A Vancouver city councilor and a B.C. hotel-employee union are calling for an investigation to look into the Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel for treatment of staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Workers are telling us (that Pan Pacific Vancouver is) hiring anybody, people who have no hotel experience at all, rather than bring back the former employees, who voted for a union,” Matt de Marchi said, a Unite Here Local 40 spokesperson.

Unite Here Local 40, a B.C. hotel-employee union that represents more than 5,000 workers, has said, Pan Pacific Vancouver’s hotel management is refusing to recall nearly 200 workers who have not worked in years.

“The union calls for scrutiny into hotel management’s refusal to recall workers, primarily women of colour, permanently laid-off during the pandemic or the approximately 90 on-call staff who have not worked since March 2020,” said Michelle Travis, a union spokesperson.

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A Vancouver city councillor voiced her support for the workers.

“As visitors return to Vancouver, we need to make sure hotel workers’ rights are respected. That’s why I’m standing with hotel workers out of concern for what is happening at Pan Pacific Vancouver,” Vancouver city councillor Christine Boyle said.

“The stories I’ve heard are unconscionable, especially as it impacts low-wage workers of colour.”

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Those stories include instances of harsh lay-offs and firings during the beginning of the pandemic, the union told Global News on Friday.

“The company asked full-time workers (some with 20-30 years of experience working at the hotel) to sign an agreement that made them give up their regular full-time status to become casual on-call workers,” Travis said.

“(If signed) workers would get $250 and were promised they would be able to continue working (instead of being laid off).”

The employer then decided to fire a number of those workers, even after they signed the agreement, the union said.

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Pan Pacific workers voted to unionize in August 2020 in response to “mass terminations.”

“Since then, workers have faced management’s refusal to return long-term staff to their jobs, unfair labour practices, and delays in bargaining a first contract,” Travis said.

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The union suspects that the employer has not offered the old employees their previous jobs due to their union vote.

The hotel is owned by Mississauga-based Westmont Hospitality Group, an international company that owns and operates hotels.

Although no one was available for an interview on Friday, a Westmont Hospitality Group spokesperson said the company just “owns the property” and has nothing to do with the management of the hotel.

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Upon hearing the response, Unite Here Local 40 had some choice words.

“I think that’s really shocking (to hear),” Travis said. “(Westmont Hospitality Group) has owned this hotel for more than 20 years and at the end of the day, they make the call on what happens inside their hotel. I think it’s interesting they are shifting attention to their managers working at the hotel.”

A former concierge filed a class-action lawsuit against the hotel over wrongful terminations last year which led to a B.C. Supreme Court judge certifying the lawsuit, the union said.

Also, the BC Labour Relations Board found the hotel management committed unfair labour practices and violated the Labour Code by refusing to recognize the inclusion of on-call workers in the bargaining unit.

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Boyle said she will be hosting a public event in September to hear from affected workers about their experiences with Pan Pacific Vancouver, as a first step into a potential investigation.

Global News has reached out to Pan Pacific Vancouver and Westmont Hospitality Group for further comments.

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