Canadian Hotel Worker Protest Takes Aim At Lufthansa Crew

Arriving in Vancouver on May 13th, Lufthansa crew members found themselves caught up in the middle of a labor dispute, encountering striking hotel workers outside of their stopover accommodations. The airline’s crew were specifically targetted by the unionized hotel workers, with requests not to cross their picket line at the hotel.

The Airbus A330 has been deployed by Lufthansa for the Vancouver-Frankfurt service. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Caught-up in a labor dispute

Just having landed in Vancouver after flying for around 10 hours from Frankfurt, Lufthansa crew were “greeted” by locked-out workers of the Hilton Metrotown hotel outside the airport.

A union representative told Simple Flying that Lufthansa’s unionized flight crews stay at this hotel when they fly through Vancouver International Airport. On its website, the workers union known as Unite Here Local 40 said the following when describing the plan for the May 13th event:

“While large unions and Burnaby City Council have pledged not to patronize the hotel until it reinstates its workers, Lufthansa flight crew members continue to cross the picket line by staying at Hilton Metrotown. Hotel workers are entering the 5th week of the lockout.”

Armed with protest signs in German, workers waited outside the YVR main terminal, hoping to encounter Lufthansa airline personnel. In addition to signage, leaflets were distributed, with requests not to stay at the hotel. By persuading Lufthansa to accommodate its workers at another establishment, the union and its workers are hoping to put further pressure on the hotel to restore jobs.

The Unite Here Local 40 representative told Simple Flying that the situation has since escalated, saying that a bus carrying Lufthansa flight crew across the picket line injured a protestor outside the hotel on Saturday.

The large sign in the middle translates to “Lufthansa, do not cross the picket line.” Photo: Unite Here Local 40

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The claims against the Hilton Metrotown hotel

The Hilton Metrotown hotel, located in the city of Burnaby (adjacent to the city of Vancouver), is accused of the following:

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  • Locking out workers last month after firing 97 staff.
  • Cutting off almost 50 of its laid-off workers’ employment insurance benefits after locking them out (according to Richmond News).
  • Refusing to commit to restoring long-term workers’ jobs once business recovers.

“I’m deeply hurt and angry that Hilton Metrotown cut off our [Employment Insurance]. I’ve only worked a few shifts, and [Employment Insurance] still wasn’t enough to make ends meet during the time I was laid off…First you fire workers, then you lock us out. Now you’re cutting off our legal government assistance.” – Kelsey Paul, Font desk agent, Hilton Metrotown

In addition to the job cuts, the hotel is accused of not having enough people to safely clean the facility, which has 283 rooms. As such, the union reported the hotel to provincial labor authorities.

Of course, in addition to airlines and airports, hotels have been hit hard by the global health crisis. With both international and interprovincial travel restrictions in place across much of Canada, the hospitality industry has been left with little choice but to lay off staff.

Simple Flying reached out to both Lufthansa Group and the Hilton Metrotown hotel looking for an official statement on the issue. At the time of publication, no response was received.

Do you think Lufthansa should accommodate its crew at a different hotel due to the dispute? Let us know in the comments.

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