NANAIMO — After four months of little progress at the bargaining table, unionized staff at Nanaimo's largest hotel are ready to walk off the job.
Roughly 100 staff at the Coast Bastion Hotel, members of UNITE HERE Local 40, issued 72-hour strike notice and can legally hit the picket line on Friday afternoon.
Local 40 organizer Matthew De Marchi said their members, working in housekeeping, front desk, kitchen, serving and banquet staff roles, are critical to the hotel's operations and a strike would be crippling.
"At this point I would say we're on different planets in terms of the numbers," De Marchi told NanaimoNewsNOW. "We're having discussions with workers about what the next move is but I will say strike action is imminent."
De Marchi said since August, more than 10 full-day bargaining sessions were extremely frustrating. A previous three-year collective agreement expired earlier in the summer. He said Nanaimo members voted 88 per cent in favour of strike action.
Staff are overworked and housekeepers are getting injured at a high frequency trying to keep up with the workload, De Marchi said, noting the union is looking for wage hikes, pension improvements and better medical benefits.
"In this hotel there's a huge portion of the workers who give exceptional service but fall underneath the living wage number for Nanaimo we see put out there by different poverty groups. That's the number one thing that needs to be addressed, that people who work 40-hours-a-week in the key hotel in town should be able to make a living wage."
There are currently no bargaining sessions scheduled until Dec. 13, nearly a week after the 72-hour strike notice expires.
Tourism data published by Chemistry Consulting placed hotel occupancy rates in Nanaimo in 2018 at 75 per cent through October, a 3.5 per cent increase over 2017. Average revenue per available room was up nearly $10 to $100, Chemistry's data showed.
"Workers are telling us the workload is simply too high, the amount of tourists and business people coming through the hotel means they're working at a pace that's unsustainable. Obviously we want the hotel to be doing well but at the same time we have to make sure the work is safe and people are making a living wage."
More than 20 members of UNITE HERE Local 40 were locked out for nearly a year starting in April 2015 as part of a bitter contract dispute between unionized staff and the Nanaimo Golf Club.
The current bargaining also includes Coast properties in Prince George and Victoria, however only Nanaimo is in a position to strike.
In an emailed statement, Coast Hotels said they've negotiated in good faith to reach a fair and equitable deal and the best way forward is continued dialogue, noting the company supports mediation.
"We do not think that strike action is positive for anyone involved, especially our ambassadors...We want to keep everyone working so staff don’t suffer undue stress and can enjoy the holiday season with their families.
"We’re committed to keeping all staff on the job and working to reach an agreement as quickly and productively as possible," the statement said.
On Twitter: @domabassi
— Note to readers: this is an updated story. Adds statement from Coast Hotels.
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