Vancouver hotel worker strike causes downtown event cancellations

Groups are scrambling to find new venues for events and conferences as a hotel strike in downtown Vancouver continues and 1,200 workers remain off the job.

On Wednesday, the B.C. Federation of Labour put more pressure on hotel owners to negotiate a contract with the workers and called for the public to boycott four luxury properties: Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore, Pinnacle Harbourfront and the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

The impact is being felt.

“It was massively disruptive for us,” said Jeff Guignard, the executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees which is just one group that’s had to change venues due to the strike.

He said just 25 days away from the group’s annual B.C. Liquor Conference, he received a call from the Hyatt Regency where the event was scheduled to take place on the weekend of Oct. 20.

“We had already paid about $30,000 in deposits to the Hyatt and they were very gracious about it, very kind and they gave us all of our money back, but as you can imagine that created stress and anxiety for us.”

He said the hotel told him they would not have the staff or the level of service needed to put on the event.

Workers including room attendants, chefs and front-desk agents are striking over issues related to safety, workload and job security.

Guignard is grateful he could find another venue since some of the conference’s 200 attendees had already made travel plans and that sponsors had already committed to the event.

Picket lines affect plans

For other event organizers, the decision to switch venues was more complicated.

The annual Jack Webster awards which recognizes the work of B.C. journalists changed venues from the Hyatt Regency to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver because some of its 800 attendees may have refused to cross a picket line.

“We knew that a number of media members are unionized,” said Janet Mitchell, executive director of the Jack Webster Foundation, adding there was no choice but to change locations.

“We have a number of unions that are sponsors of the event so there was no way we could hold our event at a location that is on strike. Therefore we had to take a look at alternative venues that can fit the number of people and size of our event.”

Calls for boycott

The B.C. Federation of Labour said all affiliated unions have cancelled bookings at the affected hotels.

Michael D’Angelo, vice-president of labour relations for Hyatt in North and South America, said in a statement that he is disappointed in the move and that employers are proposing a 15 per cent pay increase over a four year period which he called “unprecedented for hospitality workers in Vancouver.”

Hotel workers have been without a contract for more than a year.

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