Laid-off B.C. hotel workers begin hunger strike demanding job protection

Naden Abenes was laid off from her jobs as a room attendant at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver when the pandemic hit. She now worries about what will happen when government assistance ends. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Naden Abenes was laid off from her jobs as a room attendant at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver when the pandemic hit. She now worries about what will happen when government assistance ends. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Unite Here Local 40 says approximately 80 per cent of its members in Greater Victoria have been laid off due to the pandemic. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Zailda Chan, president of Unite Here Local 40, speaks to the crowd outside the Legislature on Monday as part of the hunger strike kick-off. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

Ten B.C. hotel workers have committed to an open-ended hunger strike in hopes of pressuring the government to ensure laid-off workers’ jobs are secured.

“We’ve seen a lack of leadership in terms of ensuring these jobs are protected, meanwhile the same hotel industry that is terminating long term employees are asking for a $680 million bailout,” said Zailda Chan, president of Unite Here Local 40. “This is why we’re resorting to such drastic measures.”

According to Chan, at least 80 per cent of the union’s members in Greater Victoria have been laid off, most have been unemployed since mid-March.

READ ALSO: B.C. tourism industry seeks $680M to rebuild after pandemic

The 10 members will be joined by another 20 over the coming days, all with different ranges of forgoing food. An encampment will be set up on the Legislature lawn throughout the hunger strike but will be taken down each evening. Hunger strikers will only be sipping on water and will be housed together throughout the strike.

READ ALSO: Hotel workers gather in Victoria, demand right to return to work

Naden Abenes, one of the strikers who was laid off from the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, will be fasting for five days.

“Most of us who have been laid off did nothing wrong, we stayed home to protect the public because the government asked us to,” she told the small crowd gathered at the base of the stairs of the Legislature on Monday.

Abenes has been relying on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Temporary Rental Supplement Program, but worries what will happen when the programs run out. “This means I have to consider giving up my apartment and staying with different friends and give them rent,” she said adding she doesn’t know what she’s going to do next month.

The same group gathered last month demanding the right to return to work.


 

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