Racialized women bear the brunt of pandemic terminations in hotels

Opinion: We urge county leaders to ensure that workers laid off during the COVID pandemic are fired first to get their jobs back.

Article content

When Stephanie Dunn, a single mom, discovers that she has been terminated from Pan Pacific Vancouver due to the pandemic, the loss of her housekeeping job feels deeply personal. As a member of the Squamish Nation, she brought back memories of how her ancestors were forced to leave their lands. She’s not alone in how to get her fired. Thousands of other workers like her. As business recovers, hotel workers – who have dedicated decades of service – must prepare to return to work. But many are not.

Ads

Article content

Nearly 50,000 hotel workers were laid off when the pandemic hit British Columbia Instead of putting them back in their jobs, hotels unleashed a shooting spree and turned the lives of women like Stephanie upside down. A new report, Unequal Women, by Unite Here Local 40, highlights the termination of women subjected to racism in the industry. Many affected workers hope to return. When they lose their jobs, they lose the gains made over the decades such as wages, benefits, and job security.

The report looked at a sample of British Columbia hotels and found that women who experience racism bear the brunt of pandemic terminations in hotels. For example, the majority of workers laid off in Pan Pacific are women; Of this total, 94 percent are racist. This is a common thread across hotels. But the Pan Pacific could have done what some hotels have done to address the labor shortage: commit to withdrawing workers as working conditions permit.

Ads

Article content

Although the Trudeau government has promoted the need for a feminist recovery, will it lead to more than just words? Stephanie has found another job but has been earning less than she did before the coronavirus and is finding work taxing her health.

Statistics Canada has announced record job openings this year, particularly in industries such as food, tourism and retail. These industries are in trouble. Part of the problem is that we have a shortage of good jobs, good wages, and good working conditions. When the tourism industry returns in strength, hotels will face a deeper problem if they fail to bring back workers like Stephanie.

Hotel owners have benefited millions from subsidies, COVID-19-related grants, and other financial benefits. However, they are not obligated to ensure that laid-off workers get their jobs back as the business recovers. The county government has provided the tourism sector with nearly $230 million in direct relief in addition to receiving $345 million in grants. This sector also received more than $1.2 billion in federal wage subsidies between March 2020 and May 2021. The owner of Pan Pacific, which employed more than 300 workers before the pandemic, has sought a regional variation to extend temporary layoffs, but for only 16 workers and received federal wage subsidies intended to maintain its workforce.

Ads

Article content

Our organizations are working hard not only to address the impact of the pandemic on working women, but also the long-standing issues that exacerbate worker poverty in British Columbia. “We have no time to waste.

Through the Justice at Work for Lone Mothers in BC project, the Alliance of Single Mothers will conduct pandemic-related research with women workers, addressing public policy needed to address precarious work, access to training, education, reskilling, and cycling. For many low-wage single women workers between precarious work and BC’s income assistance system. CWT continues to push policy makers and employers to do more to protect workers’ jobs.

Ads

Article content

We urge our county leaders to ensure that workers laid off during COVID are fired first to get their jobs back. Federal leaders should condition employer pandemic benefits on employee retention to ensure laid-off workers are given priority over their replacements. Our organizations work together to help restore the voice and value of the women who have given so much to our communities.

The government has given millions to support the hotel industry that is eliminating jobs held mostly by women classified on the basis of race. There is nothing feminist in recovery like that. If the industry does not return long-term female workers to their jobs, it is time for politicians to step in to ensure an inclusive and equitable feminist recovery forever.

Jan Swanson is a member of the Vancouver City Council. Viveca Ellis is the co-founder and regional organizer, BC Single Mothers Alliance; Mahtab Laghi is the leader of the “Women of Transforming Cities” campaign; Sima Ahluwalia is a member of the Vancouver Council and the Local Business Council.

Ads

comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining an active and civil forum for discussion and encouraging all readers to share their opinions on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour to be moderated before they appear on the Site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We’ve enabled email notifications – you’ll now receive an email if you receive a response to your comment, if there’s an update to a comment thread you’re following or if it’s a user you’re following. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Recent Articles

Related Stories

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay on op - Ge the daily news in your inbox