British Columbia

Hospitality workers' union says 90% of members have lost their jobs in past 2 weeks

Union representing 60,000 workers in B.C. says 90 per cent of members have been laid off in the last two weeks because of COVID-19.

Most of Unite Here Local 40's 60,000 members have been laid off due to economic fallout of COVID-19

File photo: Zailda Chan (left) stands with members of Unite Here Local 40 to publicize hotel workers' sexual harassment complaints on July 23, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The union that represents more than 60,000 hospitality workers in B.C. says its members — many of them single mothers, immigrants and people of colour — are reeling from the fallout of COVID-19 layoffs and slowdowns.

The president of Unite Here Local 40 said in the span of two weeks, 90 per cent of their members have lost their jobs.

"Hospitality workers across B.C. are asking how am I going to pay my rent or mortgage? How am I going to put food on the table? How can I afford my prescriptions?" said Zailda Chan.

Unite Here Local 40 members work in airports, hotels, food service and resource camps.

The union's leaders from across Canada said the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit works out to less than minimum wage and will not provide enough support to workers who earn on average $20 per hour.

The union is calling upon governments to do three things:

  • Implement an immediate 80 per cent wage replacement, including tips for tipped workers.
  • Give hospitality workers the proper health and safety training and opportunities for employment in government-organized emergency initiatives utilizing existing hospitality and food service infrastructure.
  • Extend medical benefits as a part of an industry relief package.

Chan said hospitality workers helped generate more than $22 billion in the B.C. tourism industry in 2018. Across Canada, the number is $90 billion.

"Now that an overwhelming majority of tourism staff is on the brink of the collapse, the question I have for the industry and all levels of government is: Will you come through for hospitality workers?" said Chan.

"Right now we need help to make sure Canadian hospitality workers can survive financially in the next six to 12 months."

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