A labour dispute between hospitality workers and two Vancouver hotels is affecting the employees’ health benefits and pension plan.

More than 50 hospitality workers at the Pacific Gateway Hotel near the Vancouver International Airport are striking over the right to be recalled, while another 100 workers employed at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown hotel in Burnaby, B.C., are facing a lockout.

Following temporary layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pacific Gateway Hotel permanently laid off more than 140 employees this April, according to a press release by Unite Here Local 40, the union for the workers of both hotels. Also in April, the Hilton Metrotown hotel locked out staff after permanently laying off close to 100 employees. Since May 3, the remaining employees of the Pacific Gateway Hotel have been on strike over the mass layoffs in a bid to urge the hotel to bring these workers back, says Stephanie Fung, the union’s communications organizer.

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Many of the laid-off workers and their families are losing critical benefits at a time when the country is still mired in the third wave of the pandemic, says Fung. Through their benefits plan, the laid-off workers had access to drug prescriptions, dental and vision care coverage, as well as a defined benefit pension plan, she adds. “It’s not just their jobs they’re losing. They’re losing their health-care benefits, their pensions, job security — all the job protections they’ve worked for, for over a decade.”

The hotels and the union are at a standoff over the “right to be recalled,” which guarantees employees who’ve been laid off temporarily as a result of the pandemic can return to their jobs should work become available again within a certain time frame, says Fung.

Federal legislation introduced last year extended the timeframe, from three months to six, by which workers temporarily laid off prior to March 31, 2020, could expect to return to work. Additionally, employees laid off between March 31, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2020, could be recalled until Dec. 30, 2020. The union is calling for the federal government to extend the right to recall timeframe to 24 months.

Representatives for the Pacific Gateway Hotel and Hilton Metrotown hotel didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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