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Picket lines poised to go up at Empress Hotel

VICTORIA, Aug. 29, 2016 /CNW/ - Growing frustrations about staffing levels have forced Unifor Local 4276 to serve 72-hour strike notice at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. A strike could begin as early as Thursday morning if hotel owners don't make serious proposals for a fair deal.

"The 'new' Empress has a dirty secret: the renovations have led to harm and stress on the people who work there," said Stu Shields, Unifor National Representative. "The renovations have been a terrible health and safety risk for hotel workers."

Unifor says that under-staffing is leading to forced overtime and unrealistic demands on existing workers. Some Unifor members have worked more than sixty consecutive days. As a result, Unifor is looking to establish limits on over-time hours and more strict control over scope of work.

"I'm confident we can work through our differences, but the owners have to show some appreciation to the workers who are making the Empress a successful business," said Shields.

Empress Hotel owner Nat Bosa has made significant investments in the historic hotel, but Unifor says his investments have ignored the needs of workers that make the hotel famous.

"The renovations are incomplete if the staffing levels remain stuck in the past," said Shields.

Unifor Local 4276 represents almost 500 Empress workers in housekeeping, culinary, grounds keeping, serving, guest relations, maintenance, and engineering.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.