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Port Coquitlam protest wants terminated Richmond hotel workers rehired

Richmond's unionized Pacific Gateway hotel workers rallied outside Ron McKinnon's office asking local MP to "put pressure" on government to protect jobs.

Hotel employees rallied in Port Coquitlam today (July 30), calling on Canada to protect their jobs and bring terminated employees back to the workforce.

Nearly two dozen striking Pacific Gateway hotel (PGH) workers stood outside MP Ron McKinnon's office in solidarity with former colleagues associated with UNITE HERE Local 40 that were fired earlier this year, claiming the moves were "disproportionately targeted" at women and immigrants.

The union says this is a result of the federal government's takeover of the hotel in late 2020 when it was turned into a COVID-19 quarantine site for international travellers to Vancouver's airport. 

According to spokesperson Stephanie Fung, nearly 75% of PGH's female workers were terminated and 90% of its housekeeping workers were let go.

She adds 142 unionized workers were employed at PGH before it became a federally regulated quarantine hotel.

"As an employer, we would bring workers back to their jobs once business returns, no matter how long the pandemic takes to pass," Fung told the Tri-City News when asked how the union would have done things differently.

"The federal government should guarantee that workers, particularly women of colour, who were laid off during the pandemic have jobs to return to as the economy makes a comeback. No one should lose their job just because of a temporary crisis."

PGH is in Richmond, but UNITE HERE Local 40 chose to stand outside McKinnon's office for its protest as the Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam MP also serves as the chair of the federal government's standing committee on health.

Workers stood in front of the committee recently, Fung explained, pleading for protected jobs and how the firings are another example of the pandemic's "unequal" impact on women.

Kiran Dhillon says she was fired after 17 years as a PGH room attendant and is asking McKinnon to "put pressure" on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stand with women workers.

“How much longer is our prime minister going to continue to cross our picket line while we struggle to put food on the table and care for our children? I have two kids and it’s been stressful getting by day to day. I need my job to provide for my children’s futures. [...] If this [is] what our national leader calls a feminist recovery? This is unacceptable!”

Last month, the union filed a human rights complaint over sex and racial discrimination against the hotel alleging men's jobs were "more likely to be protected" than women — particularly women of colour.

Fung added the federal government's quarantine contract with PGH ends Dec. 31, 2021, and has one message to convey once it expires. 

"That the government ensures all Pacific Gateway hotel workers are able to return to their jobs at the original wages and benefits they had pre-COVID immediately."

UNITE HERE Local 40 represents roughly 7,000 hospitality workers, including those in the food service and airport industries.