Manon Gallant (front) and Linda Richardson received layoff notices last month. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Union contests layoffs at Maple Ridge motel

Demonstration planned for today at former Quality Inn

Workers at the Econo Lodge motel in Maple Ridge are facing an uncertain Christmas after receiving layoff notices last month.

Fourteen workers with experience ranging from a couple years, up to 20 were laid off on Oct. 17.

The union that represents them, the Unite Here Local 40, is grieving that and negotiating with the Hospitality Industrial Relations group, which represents hospitality employers and MBW Holdings, the owner of the hotel.

The union is also planning a rally outside the hotel today at 3:30 p.m.

Matt De Marchi, with the union, claims that the company broke Section 54 of the Labour Relations Code, which says a company has to give 60 days’ notice of any changes or conditions of employment and create an adjustment plan.

“So that’s the legal aspect of where the issue is.”

The union and company are in the middle of a grievance procedure, set up by the B.C. Labour Relations Board, with Hospitality Industrial Relations.

“Our hope is that we’re able to negotiate a settlement through the grievance procedure right now,” said De Marchi.

But if that fails, the B.C. Labour Relations Board will appoint a judge to make a ruling during an arbitration process.

De Marchi also claims that the company broke the individual labour contract with the company, which stipulates notices and procedures for layoffs.

“The contract lays out very clearly the steps that they can take to lay people off,” he said.

“Hotels slow down. We know that in the winter, a lot of hotels slow down, so the contract affords flexibility for the company to reduce hours, for the company to lay people off, starting with the lowest in seniority.”

Hotel workers with lots of experience say that previously they been through slow times in the winter and have had their hours cut and expect that at this time of year, but have never been laid off completely, he added.

“So that’s where the shock kind of sets in as well.” Workers are also concerned about losing their health benefits if the layoff period drags on.

He said the contract follows a master agreement under Hospitality Industrial Relations. That group represents about 50 other properties around B.C.

The contract also allows four owners, or shareholders, to run the hotel, which the union says isn’t enough.

The Econo Lodge was sold in June this year for $5 million, said Garry Haukeland, with NAI Commercial.

The building at 21735 Lougheed Hwy., used to be known as the Quality Inn, which last year was proposed by B.C. Housing as the site of a supportive housing complex and shelter.

But that project was canceled after public opposition.

The building was also formerly the Best Western, alongside The Pantry restaurant, which closed a year ago and former employees of which started a petition opposing the motel as a site for supportive housing.

De Marchi says many motel staff have been there a long time and have fought to improve the contract and are confused about what’s going on.

Hospitality Industrial Relations were not available for comment.

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Fourteen workers at the Econo Lodge hotel in Maple Ridge were laid off Oct. 17. (THE NEWS/files)

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