Unifor aims to negotiate template contract with B.C. hotels

Canada’s largest private-sector union has started a round of talks that it hopes will spawn an agreement that can be used as a template for contracts at a series of B.C. hotels. 

Initial Unifor discussions with representatives from the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria took place Jan. 23 and Feb. 21, with future meetings set for Feb. 28, and March 6 through 8. 

Unifor’s western regional director Gavin McGarrigle told BIV that he expects bargaining sessions to take place later this year with representatives at other hotels, such as the:

• Fairmont Hotel Vancouver;

• Coast Coal Harbour; and

• Sheraton Vancouver Guildford in Surrey.

He said his union also represents workers at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria, as well as smaller hotels in Richmond, Port Alberni and Campbell River.

Countrywide, Unifor represents more than 8,000 workers in the hotel sector.

“The Fairmont Empress and the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver are two of the premier hotels in the country, and the Fairmont brand is one of the premier brands,” he said. “Historically, we’ve had industry-leading agreements in both of those hotels.”

The collective agreement at the Fairmont Empress Hotel expires on March 1, whereas the contract for workers at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver runs through July 31. 

McGarrigle said there needs to be sufficient compensation and benefits outlined in union contracts given the challenges that the industry faces in attracting workers. 

“We’re finding that there needs to be a lot of changes [to union contracts] to attract and retain staff,” he said. 

He estimated that pre-pandemic the Fairmont Empress Hotel had about 450 employees on its payroll. Hundreds of those have left their jobs and about 200 new workers have been hired to replace them, he said.

Many more workers are needed, McGarrigle said, adding that housekeeping staff

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