BC’s hotel sector review shows COVID-19 impacts

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 12:23 PDT, Thu September 3, 2020

Last Updated: 2:07 PDT, Mon September 21, 2020

BC’s hotel sector has faced serious complications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early August, provincial Labour Minister Harry Bains initiated an independent review of layoff and recall rights in the unionized hotel sector. Labour lawyer Sandra Banister conducted the review and shared her findings in a report.

“Ms. Banister did a good job of addressing what is a serious and complex issue taking place against the backdrop of conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the likes of which we have never seen before,” said Bains. “In a very short time, she received and reviewed submissions from representatives of hotels and trade unions, as well as employers and labour organizations. The report is thorough and informative, and I am grateful for her work. Ms. Banister’s analysis leaves no doubt that the current situation is serious and unprecedented for both workers and employers.

The reporter outlines how thousands of workers have been out of work for the last six months and do not know when they will be able to return. This is particularly difficult for hotels that rely on international and business travel.

“I have met with some of these workers and understand where they are coming from,” said Bains. “It’s not easy to live with this kind of uncertainty as to the future of your job when you have a family to support and bills to pay. Our government understands, as outlined in Ms. Banister’s report, the devastating impact this pandemic has had on the hotel industry.”

Bains said he advocate that any government economic recovery package, especially for the tourism and hotel industry, contain a pledge for employers to offer a right of first refusal—meaning that existing employees will be offered jobs first when work resumes, before new hires are considered.

He will also advocate that workers impacted by tourism closures get access to public sector jobs, in cases where their skills are transferrable. But Bains said he will not interfere in the collective bargaining process. 

After careful consideration of all the facts and in light of the complex collective bargaining landscape outlined in the report, I have decided the best course of action is to refrain from interfering in the collective bargaining process. I have always been clear that the best resolution for all parties is negotiated at the bargaining table,” he said. “Government will not be overriding existing collective agreements and the bargaining now under way in the hotel sector.

“I am hopeful all parties involved can come to mutual resolution at the bargaining table, and I urge both sides to get together as soon as possible to work out a voluntary resolution to this important issue.”

Banister’s report is available online.

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