Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel workers vote to unionize

Vote comes weeks after a worker filed court documents to have a judge certify a class-action lawsuit

pan pacific cruise
The Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel's business has plummeted in part from no cruise traffic and no conventions | Tourism Vancouver

Almost 75% of workers at Vancouver's sixth largest hotel, the Pan Pacific, have voted to unionize in a recent vote, the union Unite Here Local 40 told BIV in a February 11 email. 

Around 165 workers voted in August and the votes were counted yesterday, according to Unite Here Local 40. The vote means that the union is formed, and the next step is to bargain for a contract. 

Unite Here also represents workers at Vancouver's Westin Bayshore, Hyatt Regency, Pinnacle Harbourfront and Hotel Georgia hotels. It led strikes at those hotels in bids to get better contracts in the fall of 2019.

The result of the unionizatoin vote comes three weeks after former Pan Pacific Vancouver employee, Romuel Escobar, filed documents in BC Supreme Court to start the process to have a class-action lawsuit certified by a judge. Escobar seeks damages for wrongful or constructive dismissal, as well as aggravated and punitive damages for alleged “dishonesty.” He had worked at the hotel for 24 years before being terminated in August.

The drive for unionization comes as hotels across the world have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted general public reluctance to travel as well as government restrictions on travelling.

“A lot of our market was the cruise business,” Pan Pacific Vancouver general manager Gary Collinge told BIV last summer.  

Canada recently extended its ban on cruise ships docking at Canadian ports until February 28, 2022.

Collinge did not immediately respond to BIV's request to speak about how or if unionization will affect the 503-room, Pan Pacific Vancouver's operations. 

Collinge also told BIV last summer that the convention business was a "substantial" part of his hotel's business, and that has dried up completely with the current provincial ban on events. 

The hotel employed about 450 workers before the pandemic, according to Escobar's court filing. That included 63 salaried employees, 254 hourly workers, and 126 staff who were on call. 

Most workers have been laid off or terminated. Many object to the ways that the hotel laid off and terminated workers.

"We are excited to join a union of hotel workers who are determined to get through this pandemic together," public area attendant Jerty Gaa said in Unite Here Local 40's press release. Gaa has worked at the hotel for 11 years and wants to be recalled back to work from a layoff.

"This vote shows that women in the hotel industry are standing up and fighting for better protection, wages, and benefits, and most importantly –  fighting to save our careers."

Click here to see BIV's 2020 list of largest hotels in Metro Vancouver and Whistler, ranked by number of rooms.