Not any more

Hyatt faces threat of strike ahead of TIFF

In Canada on September 2, 2010 at 12:16

The Hyatt Regency on King Street may be heading toward a strike Thursday night, just one week it is set to be the hotel headquarters for the Toronto International Film Festival.

“The general impression we get is that Hyatt is basically trying to lock workers into a recession for four years even though the economy is starting to recover,” said JJ Fueser, a research analyst with the union UNITE HERE. “We want to make sure workers are sharing in that recovery.”

Hyatt hotel workers at chains across North America say the hotels are understaffed, while workers have endured staff cuts and reduced hours even while the economy rebounds. According to Statistics Canada, over 7,000 fewer people were employed by the hotel industry during the first quarter of 2010 compared to the first quarter of 2009. But occupancy and average daily hotel rates increased nationwide in the first quarter of 2010, leading to an increase in revenue.

Last year, a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine showed that Hyatt room attendants reported the highest injury rate among five peer hotels surveyed.

Frustrated workers at a chain in Vancouver have already staged a “wake-up call” – a noisy demonstration in the street – and workers in Chicago are prepared to strike this week.

Ms. Fueser said the hotel workers in Toronto have set a strike walkout deadline for midnight Thursday and are prepared to take up picket lines by 6 a.m. the next morning. She says representatives from the hotel and the union have been in round-the-clock bargain talks.

“We really do want to reach a settlement,” she said. “But things look tough at the moment.”

A strike during the film festival is something both sides want to avoid, Ms. Fueser said, which is why hotel workers are taking action one week in advance.

“We’re being cautious by doing this before TIFF.”

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