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Hotel picket against Rocky Mountaineer replacement workers continues today, says picketer

For the second time in three days, a Vancouver hotel chain has seen Teamster picket lines outside its doors. Early today, Teamster union pickets appeared outside of the Fairmont Pacific Rim in the city's downtown core. Last Friday April 13, Teamsters had picketed the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

The pickets protested at both Fairmont locations because their union believed that training sessions were being held inside the hotels for "replacement workers" (a.k.a. "scabs") for the controversial Rocky Mountaineer luxury train line. Rocky Mountaineer locked out its Teamster-organized on-board attendants last June.

Since then, the train line has operated using scab workers recruited on Craigslist to replace its union employees. The new "replacement workers" are reportedly being trained in advance of a new season for the train, which will begin later in April.

Friday's picket line at the Hotel Vancouver, where hotel workers belong to the Canadian Autoworkers (CAW), resulted in the Rocky Mountaineer trainers and new employees being asked to leave to the hotel due to CAW concerns. Workers at the Fairmont Pacific Rim are not unionized.

Ian Robertson, who speaks for Rocky Mountaineer management, dismissed the impact of the Teamster picketing. Characterizing Friday's picket line and his firm's trainers and trainees needing to leave the Hotel Vancouver that day as "a minor inconvenience," he told The Tyee that he was unaware of any training event occurring at the Fairmont Pacific Rim on Monday, saying that training was being conducted this week on Rocky Mountaineer property.

A Teamster picket who spoke to The Tyee on condition his name not be used for fear of retaliation by his Rocky Mountaineer employer said that the purpose of both Friday and Monday's picket lines was to educate the public about the dispute and to say to the scabs inside that it is wrong for them to take over Teamster jobs during the lock out.

"We've been told that scabs are being referred to the Rocky Mountaineer by Employment Insurance offices," the protester told The Tyee. "It seems wrong for our tax dollars to be used to help the company hire scabs to take our jobs."

The Tyee did not receive a requested comment from Service Canada, responsible for Employment Insurance, about the claim its offices were referring unemployed workers to the Rocky Mountaineer, or about questions regarding federal policy on using EI offices to recruit replacement workers for labour disputes.

The Teamster picketer who spoke to The Tyee questioned the statement from the Rocky Mountaineer's Robertson that no training was being done at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel on Monday

"That's just not true," he said angrily. "We recognized some of the same scabs we saw on Friday going into the Pacific Rim today, and one of them dropped some notes on Fairmont stationary about train related matters. We also recognized Rocky Mountaineer managers going in. So we're 100 per cent sure something tied to the company is happening here, and we think it is scab training."

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy beats for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos@infinet.net.

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