Unifor can lead the way to building better jobs in the hospitality sector across Canada by standing together and setting a common course for the future, Unifor’s first-ever Hospitality Summit heard.
“We are the biggest hospitality union in Canada, and we have the best collective agreements in the sector,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said.
Dias said hotel workers face many challenges in the workplace, including workloads, precarious work, fair scheduling issues, decent pensions and wages.
“The mechanism for fixing all of this is collective bargaining,” Dias said.
Unifor has set the standard for sector-wide bargaining in such industries as pulp and paper and auto, and can bring that strategy to hospitality, Dias said. The hospitality summit was the first step toward that goal.
“This sector is going to get stronger and we are going to keep holding summits like this,” said sector chair James Griffin, a cook at the Hotel Empress in Victoria.
The April 20-21 summit was held at the Hyatt Regency in Toronto, one of the hotels that came to Unifor from the American UNITE HERE in January.
Panel discussions looked at organizing strategies and bargaining wins. The Hotel Vancouver, for instance, was able to negotiate an RRSP plan to supplement the existing company pension, a transit subsidy and a Women’s Advocate position at the hotel.
The summit also included workshops on housekeeping, gratuities, non-contract issues such as transit and housing, and workloads.
Housekeeping workloads are a concern at many hotels, with room attendants often struggling to get all their assigned rooms cleaned on time while their co-workers are being told not to come to work. Paying workers by the hour, not room quotas, is the best way to address this.
“If you can’t finish, you punch out at 4:30, go home and get paid,” said Lis Pimentel, who led the disaffiliation of five Toronto Hotels from UNITE HERE earlier this year. “It protects ourselves, it protects our bodies, it protects our workloads and it protects our co-workers who are at home waiting to be called in.”
The second day of the summit was dedicated to Fairmont hotels, giving workers at the Royal York a chance to meet Unifor members from Fairmonts across Canada. Unifor is the top union for Fairmont hotels in Canada, and workers at the Royal York are signing Unifor membership cards to disaffiliate from UNITE HERE.