Workers at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver remained on strike Saturday, despite a deal earlier this week at four other hotels in the downtown area.
The 200 employees have been on strike for nearly a month, and without a contract since last December. The job action is also happening as a human rights complaint launched by a group of current and former female employees alleging sexual harassment by patrons of the luxury hotel remains under review.
The workers’ top concerns are safety — including protection against sexual harassment — job security, and improved wages.
Employees at the Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore, Pinnacle Harbourfront, and Four Seasons voted Thursday to ratify a new contract that gives them raises of up to 25 per cent, new safety standards and job security.
The vote ended a 28-day strike at the hotels, except the Four Seasons where staff didn’t go on strike, and lifted boycotts imposed by the B.C. Federation of Labour.
Unite Here Local 40, the union representing the hotels, says the Hotel Georgia will resume negotiations Tuesday after talks failed last month. The employer had stopped bargaining after abruptly ending talks Sept. 21., according to Sharan Pawa, a communications specialist with the union.
Pawa said the unionized staff members, which include service staff and cooks, aren’t crossing the picket lines at the upscale hotel.
“I really don’t know how they are operating on Day 28 of a strike,” she said Saturday. “I don’t know who is doing the work, but it’s not the proper staff, so they are not operating at the best level.”
Meantime, the four other hotels have now agreed to new safety measures to protect their staff from sexual harassment faced on the job. They’re the first hotels in Vancouver to agree to provide staff access to panic buttons, banning guests who sexually harass an employee and whistleblower protection for staff who come forward with complaints.
The Hotel Georgia hasn’t signed a contract that puts these protections in place, said Pawa.
The media spokesperson for Rosewood Hotels didn’t immediately return messages Saturday. An employee who answered the phone at the hotel said a manager would return a request for information about the planned talks Tuesday.
“It is unacceptable that Hotel Georgia remain an outlier refusing to agree to industry-wide sexual harassment, workload and safety agreements by every other property under strike,” said Pawa. “The hotel has no sense of shame when it comes to the treatment of Vancouver’s hotel workers, a majority of whom are women, standing up against unsafe, unfair and disrespectful working conditions.”
In August, a group of female employees of the Hotel Georgia filed a human rights complaint against the hotel for gender discrimination, an overly sexualized work environment and failure to respond appropriately to incidents of harassment or assault in the workplace.
At the time, Sierra Garrison, a server at the hotel, said sexual harassment is a problem for many women working in the industry, and at the Hotel Georgia in particular.
“Female servers have been touched, kissed and have experienced sexual comments and advances from male guests and past managers. I feel that this type of behaviour should not be tolerated,” she said.
According to the human rights complaint, the women allege that some female employees have been told that they must put up with sexual harassment from the wealthy clientele. It also claims management put in place sexualized uniform requirements, and failed to intervene when female staff were harassed and assaulted by guests.
Casey Vanderveen, a server at the hotel, said she had endured lewd comments and sexual assault when a customer restrained her and tried to kiss her as she yelled for him to stop.
Another former server, Jesse Perry-Huson, said she experienced inappropriate and sexual comments from guests. She said on one occasion a guest reached his hand up her skirt and grabbed her thigh. She alleges she told management and they advised her not to make a scene and keep serving the man. She claims she left because she felt unsafe in her job.
The hotel has previously denied the allegations and maintains that it has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.
-With a file from The Canadian Press
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