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Worker solidarity nets workplace wins

Fairmont Chateau Whistler wrongfully withheld tips from workers and paid them to management.

“When workers stand together with a union behind them, good things happen.” That’s what President Kim Novak said about two recent wins for workers spearheaded by UFCW 1518.

Just last week, the union was successful in helping workers at Fairmont Chateau Whistler win back $85,000 in gratuities wrongfully withheld by their employer. The luxury hotel had been taking 20 percent of the tips earned by banquet workers and using them to subsidize the wages of sales managers.

Banquet workers contacted the union for help in 2018 after Fairmont management rolled out a new tipping structure in which gratuities given by hotel guests to banquet workers would be withheld. Employer theft of gratuities is illegal thanks to changes made to the Employment Standards Act by the BC NDP last spring. British Columbia was the last province in Canada to provide legal protection for worker-earned gratuities.

Despite workers raising their concerns with management multiple times, Fairmont Chateau Whistler refused to stop withholding tips, said Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson. “These workers tried in vain to address the issue themselves. But they couldn’t make the employer listen or obey the law. That’s when they called us.”

This shows why unions are needed more than ever, especially with the rise of precarious work and the growth of the gig economy, Secretary-Treasurer Johnson added. “When workers lack the collective voice and power of a union, it’s much easier for employers to break the law and exploit their employees. As a result of our advocacy and the subsequent investigation by the Employment Standards Branch, Fairmont Chateau Whistler will voluntarily repay about 60 of its employees $85,000. That is significant and a real win for those workers.”

Workers employed by Fairmont Chateau Whistler between May 30, 2019 and August 30, 2019 are eligible for repayment. If an employee believes that they have not been paid their full entitlement, they can file a complaint.

Last year, workers at River’s Reach Pub in New Westminster contacted UFCW 1518 for help in addressing persistent problems with sexual harassment and bullying. They asked for the union’s help, and after a successful organizing drive, they became members of UFCW 1518. Last week, workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying their first collective agreement. “Workers in the hospitality industry are notoriously vulnerable to sexual harassment from customers and exploitation by employers,” said President Novak. “In their first collective agreement, our members at River’s Reach got clear language to protect them from this. That’s an important move towards creating a harmonious and safe workplace.”

If you are interested in joining UFCW 1518, you can contact us confidentially here!

When workers lack the collective voice and power of a union, it’s much easier for employers to break the law and exploit their employees.
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