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Vancouver hotel workers ratify new contract

Vancouver hotel workers last week ratified a four-year contract with the Greater Vancouver Hotel Employers Association, gaining improved pensions and benefits, higher pay, and reductions in housekeeping workload.

The workers were represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, according to a news release from the union. The release quoted Nadeen Abenes, a Hyatt room attendant and member of the bargaining committee:

"One of the most important gains we made was improving eligibility for health care benefits. Now more of our co-workers will keep their extended health care and dental benefits during slower parts of the year. I am also happy we won housekeeping workload relief which means housekeepers will no longer have to skip their breaks to finish rooms, can rely less on painkillers, and actually get to enjoy the time they spend with their families after work – instead of losing that time due to pain."

The release listed a number of other improvements in the new collective agreement, including the largest pension increase ever negotiated with the GVHEA, better workload conditions, and a wage increase of $1.84 over the life of the contract. The agreement cover about 1,600 workers at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, Westin Bayshore, Renaissance Vancouver Harbourside, and the Four Seasons.

In his 2006 book Differences That Matter, UBC sociologist Dan Zuberi showed that hotel workers in Vancouver are sharply better off than those of their counterparts in Seattle thanks to strong union representation -- not only in working conditions but also health care and steadiness of work.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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