Workers at the Victoria Event Centre (VEC) voted overwhelmingly last night in favour of joining UFCW 1518, marking the first worker-led union certification in Victoria’s hospitality sector in decades. Lack of workplace standards, poor working conditions and sexual harassment were just some of the reasons VEC workers unionized, suggesting a shift in complacency about worker abuse in restaurants and bars.
“The service industry has been changing rapidly while owners and managers have been slow to adopt better workplace protections to keep guests and employees safe,” said Shelby Gerrath, bartender and front of house supervisor. “While the VEC does better than many employers to promote a safe and harassment free workplace, we voted to join the union to keep the standards we have and continue to build for the future. It’s also a great example to other workers that they too can form a union to make the hospitality industry better for workers.”
“We welcome the energy and ideas of the VEC workers,” said Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson. “Their overwhelming support to unionize demonstrates the increasing precarious nature of work in Victoria and across BC. We regularly receive calls from retail and hospitality sector workers who are struggling with low pay and high risk in sector that is long overdue for the kind of workplace protection the union provides.”
The Victoria Event Centre is operated by the Victoria-Multicultural Society, a non- profit organization that promotes diversity, arts and community through performance and celebration. The venue is a standout in the city’s growing downtown night scene, showcasing experimental and emerging artists along with epic dance parties and festivals for the past 16 years.