Tuesday, May 21, 2024

“Absolutely devastating”: B.C. hotel workers raise awareness for industry crippled by COVID-19


On Tuesday afternoon, hotel workers from across the province gathered at the B.C. Legislature to raise awareness of the lack of job stability workers currently face.

Approximately 50,000 hotel workers in the province have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and they are not legally guaranteed those positions back.

In a press release issued by Unite Here Local 40, the group claims that hotel workers are already being terminated permanently before the industry has had enough time to recover. Workers are now demanding that employers do not use the pandemic as an “excuse to replace them.”

Ingrid Jarrett, President and CEO of the BC Hotel Association has claimed that the industry is in dire shape.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” Jarrett says in a phone call with Victoria Buzz. “We have hotels all over the province that are literally on the brink of bankruptcy.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the B.C. hospitality industry brought close to 34 billion dollars into the economy and provided jobs for 60,000 people. Right now, the industry is operating at approximately 30 per cent of its total capacity.

Jarrett says that having to lay off hotel employees has been “heartbreaking” for employers. “The most precious relationship is the employee/employer relationship. They are the people who create the experience. They are the smiles at the door,” she says.

Although businesses have begun to reopen, the hotel industry has been slow to follow.

“We have rehired maybe 30 per cent of employees,” admits Jarrett, “Right now, we still have approximately 25 per cent of hotels in the province that are remaining closed because they cannot afford to reopen.”

So, what can British Columbians do to boost the hospitality industry?

“We need people to travel,” says Jarrett, “We’ve done a lot of work to make things safe and in line with WorkSafe and BC Health to ensure everything is clean and up to standard.”

Once B.C. entered Phase 3 of their COVID-19 reopening plan in late June, public health authorities have begun to encourage B.C. residents to travel within the province.

Jarret also requests the government extend its temporary layoff and wage subsidy policies, defer property tax interest, and provide a recovery investment for the industry.

Abby Neufeld
Abby Neufeld
Freelance writer for Victoria Buzz.

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