BC’s Hospitality Workers Ratify New Contract Across Province, Win Extended Recall Rights Beyond COVID-19 Pandemic

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Vancouver, BC — Over 1000 hospitality workers in hotels, motels, pubs, and liquor stores across 14 communities in BC overwhelmingly voted by 80% to ratify a new four-year agreement with Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR). This contract includes an extension of recall rights for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic — through to July 1, 2023 or when the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the pandemic is over. After an 18-month effort, BC’s hospitality workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, have achieved a new standard securing the right of workers to return to their jobs as business recovers.

Workers fought to push back against an industry attack to replace their good living wage jobs with those at minimum wage and eliminate union health and pension benefits. HIR employers finally agreed to extend recall rights for all properties. Local 40 members only agreed to settle if their pension, health care, severance pay, and workload were protected. As well as winning unlimited recall rights to cover future crises such as pandemics and natural disasters, they won longer recall protection for regular seasonal layoffs, increasing from 6 months to 12. 

Workers at several HIR properties, such as Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Holiday Inn Vancouver, organized and participated in rallies earlier this year to protest the industry’s attempt to impose deep concessions which would have rolled back years of hard-won gains. UNITE HERE Local 40 called on HIR to find a path forward to address the impact of the pandemic on hospitality workers and their employers. HIR issued a lockout notice in mid-April, which would have disproportionately impacted women and racialized workers.

Jan Budd, a kitchen helper for 30 years at Holiday Inn & Suites Vancouver Downtown, said: “It feels incredible to have been part of this huge victory, after so many months of fighting against the industry. I can breathe a sigh of relief now knowing that I won’t have to start all over again at minimum wage. HIR finally respected our years of service, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back at work again as business eventually recovers.”

Fe Taala Casas, a room attendant for 26 years at Inn at the Quay in New Westminster, said: “I’m over the moon. We fought very hard since the pandemic started to make sure all of us would have jobs to go back to once Covid is over, and in the end, we won just that. I’m very proud that we were able to make sure recall rights would be extended, and that we protected our pension and health care. This victory sends a strong signal that other hospitality employers should be making sure no one loses their job because of this pandemic.”

The new contract covers hospitality workers in Vancouver, Victoria, Coquitlam, Richmond, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Abbotsford, Harrison Hot Springs, Kamloops, Castlegar, Port Alberni, Mackenzie, Prince Rupert, and Fort St. John.

While HIR has extended recall rights, some BC hotels such as the Pacific Gateway, Hilton Metrotown, and Coast Bastion still refuse to commit to returning workers back to their jobs. The union launched the Unequal Women campaign in March to call attention to hotels that refuse to guarantee workers — many of them women and immigrants — the right to return to their jobs as the industry recovers.