British Columbia

Looming strike at luxury Vancouver hotels leaves couple scrambling to replan wedding

Workers at several luxury hotels in downtown Vancouver voted in favour of striking earlier this month, leaving those with events planned at the hotels — like weddings — in the lurch.

Hotel Georgia is one of several hotels where workers have voted to strike

Joyan Buenavista, shown here getting ready for some early wedding celebrations, and her fiancé had to replan their wedding at a different venue with just a few days' notice. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Workers at several luxury hotels in downtown Vancouver voted in favour of striking earlier this month, leaving those with events planned at the hotels — like weddings — in the lurch. 

Bride-to-be Joyan Buenavista says she was only given a few days' notice that her wedding ceremony, scheduled on Sunday at Rosewood Hotel Georgia, might not happen.  

"We were freaking out," she said. 

Hotel Georgia, one of the hotels where workers are demanding higher wages and safer working conditions, issued a lockout notice effective Thursday in response to the vote to strike. 

A lockout, when management initiates the work stoppage during a labour dispute, would be unprecedented at the hotel, according to Unite Here, Local 40, the union for hotel and hospitality workers in B.C. 

Earlier this month, staff filed a human rights complaint against the hotel and alleged some workers had been sexually harassed by hotel guests who are left with the impression that they're allowed to do what they want. The hotel denies the allegations. 

"Workers at the hotels, most of whom have been without a new contract for over a year, are frustrated with their current working conditions and are prepared to act to achieve changes for a better life," the union said in a release. 

People walk past the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver. The hotel is one of several where workers are demanding higher wages and safer working conditions. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

'Hope and pray'

Buenavista's wedding planner had called her on Wednesday and broke the news to her, explaining there were two options. 

"One was that we hope and pray to God that they don't go on strike," she said. 

"Or Option 2 is that we make up a Plan B, figure out a new venue and plan out this wedding in four days."

Luckily, Buenavista and her fiancé were able to find another venue for their ceremony this weekend after "calling around frantically."

Joyan Buenavista says she's frustrated at how the situation was handled. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

By Friday night, she was busy getting her hair and makeup done for a henna-painting party, part of the traditional Indian wedding festivities the couple is planning alongside the Western ceremony at the hotel. 

For Buenavista, the problem isn't the potential strike. It's the way the hotel handled it and the lack of advanced notice that are frustrating, she said. 

"Things happen, I understand," she said. "But give us a head's up for something as large as a wedding, which is a huge celebration where thousands of dollars are on the line and you have people flying in from all over the world."

She's still waiting for the refund from Hotel Georgia to come through, Buenavista said. 

"Right now, we're paying for two weddings," she said. 

"A wedding is already stressful as it is.… This could have been handled better."

CBC reached out to the hotel for comment but did not hear back. 

Hotel workers at the Hyatt, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle have also voted in favour of a strike. 

With files from Tina Lovgreen