Sheraton Ottawa Hotel to permanently lay off 70 employees, union says

Downtown Sheraton Ottawa
About 70 workers at the Sheraton Ottawa Hotel are being laid off this week, their union says. Photo via Sheraton Ottawa Hotel

The Sheraton Ottawa Hotel is permanently laying off about 70 workers starting this week, the union representing the employees says.

In a statement posted to its Facebook page late last week, UNITE HERE Local 261 said the affected workers have been on temporary layoff since last year due to the pandemic. The union said it has been trying since last October to reach a deal with Sheraton management to recall the employees when business starts to improve.

“Despite the pending vaccine rollout and signs the industry will begin recovery this year, the hotel unexpectedly refused to extend recall rights,” the statement said, adding many of the employees “have served for decades.”

The union said the Sheraton Ottawa is the only hospitality employer represented by UNITE HERE Local 261 that decided to terminate employees.

Sheraton Ottawa general manager Yolaine Charette did not immediately respond to requests for comment from OBJ on Monday.

Hard-hit sector

At 236 rooms, the Sheraton is one of the city’s largest downtown hotels. According to the union, the building is owned by Hong Kong-based Keck Seng Investments.

The move comes as Ottawa’s hard-hit hospitality industry struggles to keep its head above water during the pandemic.

Many industry analysts say they don’t expect the hotel business to bounce back until 2023 at the earliest as travel has plummeted across the country in the wake of widespread shutdowns aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19.

Here in the nation’s capital, most hotels are barely hitting double-digit occupancy rates. Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association boss Steve Ball told OBJ last month the industry won’t start to recover until a much bigger chunk of the population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus and feels comfortable travelling again.

“As long as we’re promoting stay-at-home, hotels are going to continue to stay empty,” he said. 

The downturn has also caused some local hotel owners to exit the business entirely. Last fall, two prominent downtown lodgings, the Albert at Bay Suite Hotel and the Best Western Plus on O’Connor Street, were sold to an unidentified buyer that plans to convert the properties into long-term rentals.