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Hospitality workers in Harrison, beyond await word on labour negotiations

UNITE HERE Local 40 reps say lockout notice still in effect

Hotels across B.C., including Harrison Hot Springs Resort, are still on lockout notice following a labour dispute between UNITE HERE Local 40 and Hospitality Industrial Relations.

On Tuesday, April 27, The B.C. Labour Relations Board delivered a lockout notice to the hospitality workers union, which would effectively put 1,200 employees across more than a dozen communities out of work. The original lockout notice expired on Friday, April 30, but as of press time, UNITE HERE Local 40 spokesperson Stephanie Fung told The Observer that hotels remain on lockout notice as the union awaits word from HIR.

During a press conference on Thursday, April 29, UNITE HERE Local 40 executive officer Robert Demand expressed fears that 32 employers across B.C., including Harrison Hot Springs Resort, would rather fire current staff and replace them when the COVID-19 pandemic allows for travel again.

“Instead of working together during a crisis, many employers are undermining economic security, which could drive working conditions back decades,” Demand said. Demand pointed out that this lockout would disproportionately affect women and people of colour, who make up a majority of the affected workforce.

The previous contract between HIR and the union expired in May 2020 with negotiations ongoing ever since.

“We hope employers will take this approach to avoid lockout as a summer of tourism approaches,” Demand said.

Demand also called on the provincial government to intervene on behalf of the tourism industry.

“This could have been stopped if the province stepped up and responded to the COVID crisis in hospitality with the same urgency they addressed the needs of healthcare workers,” he said.

One of the main points of contention is the union’s push for extended recall rights, which would give current employees protection and allow them to return to work when work is available again. Demand said the union seeks job protection heading into the early summer months of 2023 as “a myriad of factors” related to the pandemic could further hinder the tourism industry for several more months.

The communities affected by the current lockout threat are: Vancouver, Victoria, Coquitlam, Richmond, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Harrison Hot Springs, Kamloops, Castlegar, Fort St. John, Port Alberni, Mackenzie and Prince Rupert.

Village of Harrison Hot Springs officials have declined to comment. The Observer has also reached out to Harrison Hot Springs Resort for further comment.

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