That could have significant implications for many hotel operators who would be forced to alter how they manage – and compensate – their workforce.
In April 2010, workers at the Novotel Ottawa held a vote to unionize. The outcome of the vote is being contested by union officials and is currently before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
The labour organizing group Unite Here, which represents approximately 50,000 Canadian workers, alleges some Novotel employees were pressured not to support unionization.
Former room attendant Esperance Umwizaninde said management told her that if she supported the union, she would no longer be able to book time off to take her son to the hospital for leukemia treatments.
For its part, Novotel officials said it is “not appropriate” to respond to specific allegations because the case is currently under review. However, they said they support the rights of workers to organize and are confident the claims will be dismissed.
“We support our team members and respect their right to make their own free choices regarding labour union representation in the workplace,” stated Laura Rojo-Eddy, Novotel’s Dallas-based director of communications.
“Our team members in two different hotels have had the opportunity to make their own free choices based on information from both the union and their management, and they have chosen to forgo unionization. (Employees) have independently recognized Novotel Canada as one of Canada’s Top 50 Best Employers for a third consecutive year in 2012.”
Whatever the outcome of the labour relations board review, Sean McKenny, the local representative for Unite Here and the president of the Ottawa & District Labour Council, said the Novotel situation will have an impact across the city.
He said he hopes the movement will let workers “recognize that they do have the rights to form a union and be more apt to push harder for that union.”
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Hotels with newly unionized employees can expect not only changes to wages, but also to how work is allocated.
A common example, said the Canadian Auto Workers’ Jean Van Vliet, is a hotel maid being paid by the hour instead of by the room, a designation that can translate to more money paid out if a worker is a step slower due to a disability.
Workload tends to be the biggest change after unionization, said the Vancouver-based president of CAW’s hospitality and service union, Local 3000.
“Unionized hotels have parameters put around the workload so people don’t get injured, especially the room attendants,” she said. “They have a lot of repetitive strain injuries from lifting.”
CAW also notes small changes in wages and benefits, and a more notable shift in the parameters surrounding layoffs and recalls in the highly seasonal industry.
“We notice here in Vancouver that some of the hotels were hiring temporary (seasonal) workers. Of course, you can’t do that in a unionized hotel,” Ms. Van Vliet said.
In return for these costs, said Unite Here’s David Sanders, employers can expect lower turnover and higher employee satisfaction among unionized workforces.
“There’s a real sense of job security, so people don’t fear getting fired every day, and people feel they have more respect and a voice at work.”
Unionized Ottawa Hotels
- Capital Hill Hotel & Suites
- Chimo Hotel
- Delta Ottawa City Centre
- Hotel Indigo Ottawa
- Les Suites Hotel
- Lord Elgin Hotel
- Minto Suite Hotel
- The National Hotel and Suites Ottawa
- Ottawa Marriott
- Quality Hotel Ottawa
- Radisson Hotel Ottawa Parliament Hill
- Residence Inn By Marriott Ottawa
- Sheraton Ottawa Hotel
- Travelodge Hotel Ottawa and Conference Centre
- Travelodge Ottawa East
Source: Unite Here