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B.C. unions threaten to pull $2M in business from Burnaby hotel if lockout continues

"The way the Hilton Metrotown has treated Unite Here members during the COVID-19 pandemic is despicable"
hilton-burnaby-unite-here-june-3-2021
UNITE HERE Local 40, which represents Hilton Vancouver Metrotown Employees, are issuing a new pledge if an agreement is not reached with locked-out employees.

More major B.C. unions are threatening to escalate their boycott of Burnaby's Hilton Vancouver Metrotown location if the hotel does not end what the representing union says is a lockout of hotel workers. 

In a press conference Thursday (June 3), UNITE HERE Local 40 and the BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) announced a new pledge on the picket lines. 

Some B.C. unions say that if no resolution is reached to stop the lockout of hotel employees by the end of this month, they will not conduct any business dealings in 2022, in addition to business already lost in 2021.

Hilton Metrotown locked out room attendants, front desk agents, banquet, and kitchen staff on April 16 after terminating 97 long-term staff, impacting at least 50 workers who live in Burnaby - a move the union has called "mass firings" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley took part in a news conference with the union representing the workers to tell the company to get back to the bargaining table, after city council adopted a motion to not spend city money at the hotel during the labour dispute.

“Get back to the table, deal with the layoff and recall provision of the contract, extend that until after this pandemic is over and allow these workers the dignity to return to their jobs as they all want to do,” Hurley said.

If other unions do pull their business with the hotel next year, the Hilton could lose roughly $2 million next year, according to UNITE HERE Local 40. 

"Hilton Metrotown workers have been locked out for six weeks, and the hotel has yet to demonstrate a willingness to resolve the lockout or commit to reinstate their long-term workers," UNITE HERE Local 40 Executive Director Robert Demand said at Thursday's press conference. 

"Our members are relentlessly fighting back. Thanks to BCGEU and our other strong union allies who have agreed to this new pledge which escalates the boycott to make sure the hotel returns workers to their jobs. Other hotel employers considering the path that Hilton Metrotown has taken should think again.”

According to UNITE HERE Local 40, the BCGEU, CUPE BC, HEU, MoveUp, BCTF, PSAC BC, CUTE BC, UFCW 1518, IBEW Local 258, BC Insulators Local 118, Boilmakers Lodge 359 and Brewery Winery and Distillery Workers Local 400 have agreed to join the pledge.

While the union says it's currently a lockout, Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR) labour relations consultant Kevin Woolliams, who represents the employer, told Glacier Media that the situation is a strike.

"The union has refused to set further bargaining dates with the employer," he said. "More than 15 days were offered to the union in May, and the union, as of June 3, has offered no dates in June."

Union spokeswoman Stephanie Fung told Glacier Media that the lockout started after the employer fired the long-term workers in April.

“The way the Hilton Metrotown has treated Unite Here members during the COVID-19 pandemic is despicable," BCGEU President Stephanie Smith said today.

"As BC’s restart plan moves ahead no one should be okay with hotel workers being left behind.

"Before the pandemic, the BCGEU spent $500,000 dollars each year at the Hilton Metrotown and we would have been booking again as soon as the restrictions were lifted but we will not support a business that mistreats workers. On behalf of the 82,000 members of the BCGEU, I urge the Hilton Metrotown to get back to the table, negotiate a fair deal, and bring these workers back to their jobs once the pandemic is over.”

- With files from Glen Korstrom, Business In Vancouver and Chris Campbell, Burnaby NOW