BC Fed calls for boycott of picketed Vancouver hotels

Strike began September 19

hotel georgia strike
Workers picket outside the Rosewood Hotel Georgia | Glen Korstrom

What happened: The British Columbia Federation of Labour, which lobbies on behalf of the province’s labour movement has called for the public to boycott four downtown Vancouver hotels that have been behind picket lines since September 19.

Why this matters: A ramp-up in pressure on the employers could help resolve the dispute where both parties have recently resumed bargaining.

Employers have offered workers at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, Westin Bayshore, Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront, and Rosewood Hotel Georgia a 15% pay increase over four years. They have also offered other safeguards, but the union, Union Unite Here Local 40, has said that it is calling for what it considers fair wages and basic job security. It is also asking for what it calls safety reforms to prevent injury and address ongoing sexual harassment that female workers experience.

The BC Fed represents nearly 50 affiliated unions that have around 500,000 members across the province. It is asking its members, and the broader public, not to cross picket lines or do business with the four hotels, either in person or on-line.

“Our affiliated unions are cancelling bookings and avoiding future events with these hotels,” said BC Fed president Laird Cronk.

“Working together, we can exert real pressure and send a strong message that these workers deserve a fair contract.”

The ramp-up in union action comes as many organizations have had to scramble to find new corporate space for events because hotel representatives have said that the hotels are not able to host the events. 

Alliance of Beverage Licensees executive director Jeff Guignard, for example, told Business in Vancouver that he briefly panicked in late September when a manager at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver phoned him to cancel his organization’s long-planned BC Liquor Conference October 20-21 because workers were picketing the hotel.

He had been planning his organization's fourth annual conference for nearly a year and had already paid the Hyatt about $30,000 in deposits.

“They kindly informed me that they were going to be able to refund me all of my money – but they were not able to host the conference,” he said.

Guignard was able to find space at the Sutton Place so he did not have to change the timing of the event.

Non-profit corporation InspireHealth’s executive director, Loveena Chera, was similarly forced to change plans.

Her organization had organized a fundraising gala for October 23 at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia but, on September 22, Chera and the Rosewood made what she called the “mutual” decision for her to relocate the event. She was able to find space at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

The Retail Council of Canada plans to hold its Retail West conference at the Hyatt Regency on October 16 and CEO Diane Brisebois told BIV that moving the event to another venue was not possible. Instead of cancelling the event or moving it to another hotel, her plan is to go ahead with the event and hope for the best. 

Each side has won minor victories.

The union won a BC Labour Relations Board ruling that said that the hotels could not have newly hired managers perform work that had been done by the striking workers. 

The employers won BC Supreme Court judgments that banned the picketing workers from impeding access to the hotels or making noise in excess of 75 decibels when at least 6.1 meters away, or with amplified sound.