Thursday afternoon laid off hotel workers were demonstrating outside Tourism Minister Lisa Beare’s office in Maple Ridge, saying government must protect their jobs.
The members of the Unite Here Local 40 union shouted slogans like “Hey, hey Minister Beare, help these workers in despair.” They carried placards reading “Put workers first in any industry bailout” and “Hire me back!”
They are fasting for a commitment from the government to protect 50,000 hotel jobs, and will have an encampment outside the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA’s office on the Lougheed Highway, at the junction with Dewdney Trunk Road. They will demonstrate there indefinitely, said Michelle Travis, a union spokesperson.
She noted the the province is considering the tourism industry’s request for a $680 million bailout, but some businesses are firing their long-term, laid-off staff.
The hunger strikers are awaiting a decision from the province that could affect up to 50,000 hotel workers across B.C. She noted a provincial review of recall protections for hotel workers concluded on Aug. 20, but the province has not announced a decision on the matter. Hotel workers have been fasting on the lawn of the BC Legislature since Aug. 10.
“I don’t know what to expect,” said Travis of the looming decision. “But we’re making sure they don’t forget there is a crisis.”
Beare met with representatives from the union in the afternoon.
“I know how hard the tourism sector, including hotel workers, have been hit by this pandemic,” she said. “I met with several representatives from Local 40 yesterday to hear directly from them.
“That’s why our government appointed Sandra Banister, QC, to conduct a review of layoff and recall rights of unionized workers in British Columbia’s hotel sector as a result of COVID-19.
“My colleague, Labour Minister Harry Bains, has received Ms. Banister’s final report and is carefully reviewing it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for the hospitality industry, she said, with cruise ships no longer sailing, and the border closed to visitors causing huge impacts.
One of the speakers at the demonstration was Rev. Allen Aiken of Maple Ridge, who expressed support and blessings for the workers.
They should insist “workers deserve the legal right to return to their jobs,” he said.
Vancouver city councillor Jean Swanson was also there to support the workers, and from the podium said an NDP government should stick up for workers.