Coast Inn of the North employees rallied outside of the hotel Wednesday night (Dec. 12) in response to the company's 72-hour lockout notice.
The lockout notice was issued after UNITE HERE Local 40, the union representing the workers, went on strike for one day at the Coast Bastion in Nanaimo last week. The lockout notice, impacting 250 workers, was sent to Coast hotels in Nanaimo, Victoria and Prince George.
Harley Augustino with UNITE HERE Local 40 attended the PG rally, as did other unions, including CUPE Local representatives and B.C. Nurses' Union members.
This was earlier today at @coasthotels in @CityofPG. Other unions showed up in support of hotel workers after Coast Inn of the North issued a 72-hour lockout notice yesterday. Emergency mediation still ongoing. Police also attended to ensure civility and safety. pic.twitter.com/KXDDFbZSf2— Jess Fedigan 👩💻 (@jfediganpgm) December 13, 2018
"They're being completely unreasonable," Augustino says of management. "They are prepared to lock people out in the middle of winter and right before Christmas. It's incredibly mean-spirited." The union and employees are looking for a new agreement that includes a raise and better working conditions. The union says with the cost of living rising, employees need a better wage to support themselves and their loved ones.
"Our demands have been pretty straightforward," says Augustino. "We need a wage that keeps up with the cost of living here in Prince George and takes into account that minimum wage is going up $5 over the next few years, and that affects the cost of living for everybody."
Another issue is pensions.
"There are people who have worked here for 45 years and their retirement pension is like $300 or less," adds Augustino. "People want to be long-term employees who are going to be able to retire. They want to be able to live with dignity and take care of their families."
The deadline for a deal to be reached is midnight tonight. If no deal is reached, the union has called on the labour movement to pull business from Coast Hotels. Multiple unions in attendance at the rally stated they would be pulling business from the Coast Inn of the North due to their actions toward employees.
Coast Hotels issued the following statement to PrinceGeorgeMatters by email:
"Coast Hotels is fully committed to negotiating a fair and equitable collective agreement that’s in the best interest of union members and the hotel," the statement says.
"Towards this end, we did bring in a mediator to help resolve outstanding issues and are working towards the goal of finalizing an agreement with UNITE HERE Local 40.
"Lockout notice is not issued arbitrarily. We were forced to issue lockout notice in response to the union issuing strike notice," the company adds. "Lockout notice signifies our intention to temporarily cease operations and shut down the hotel following the potential breakdown of negotiations or a strike. The union knows that without a full complement of staff we are unable to keep the hotel open and deliver the guest experience we are known for during a strike. We would prefer to keep the hotel open, which is why we are working diligently to finalize a collective agreement at the bargaining table."
Editor's note: This story was updated at 7 p.m. on Dec. 13 to include a statement from Coast Hotels.