For immediate release
September 1, 2020
Contact: Allison Burket
[email protected]

Reversal impacts hundreds of immigrant and racialized workers

Toronto, ON — After bringing hundreds of laid off hotel workers back onto the payroll through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program (CEWS, the Fairmont Royal York announced on Friday that it will cease its participation in the program effective immediately.

“The Fairmont Royal York was one a handful of employers who worked with us to do the right thing — to nominally recall hundreds of laid off hotel workers through CEWS,” said Guled Warsame, President of UNITE HERE Local 75. “We are profoundly disappointed they are walking away from a program intended to keep workers tied to their jobs during the pandemic — workers who have been and continue to be the backbone of the hospitality industry.”

The Fairmont Royal York employed over 900 unionized workers before COVID, most of whom have been out of work since March. A small number were recalled to work during the NHL’s stay at the hotel, but since hockey’s departure, fewer than 10% of the workforce is schedule to work.

“Because of the pandemic, I was laid off in March and went on to CERB.” said Leonora Mulholland, a room attendant at the Fairmont Royal York for 21 years. “Taking care of my family especially having a special need child of mine is really a big challenge and in this time of uncertainty. Where are the warm words they assure us with when they say, ‘We are one, we are Fairmont Royal York’? They left us in greater hardship in this difficult time.”

“I was earning just enough on CERB with my part time job to make ends meet. When I was back on the payroll for Fairmont Royal York through CEWS, I felt a greater sense of being connected to my primary place to work,” said Kristian Reimer, a banquet porter at the hotel for over 18 years. “It meant I didn’t have to worry about my second job disqualifying me from CERB, and it gave me a greater sense of security knowing I was supported by the Fairmont Royal York family in this unprecedented time. It will be challenging going forward from here.”

“Our members are skilled workers, proud to welcome and serve Toronto’s visitors and guests for years. We are also proud of the work we’ve done as a union to ensure the jobs in the hotel industry are jobs people can raise a family on,” said Warsame. “We need the support of government and partnership with our employers to make sure we survive this crisis and are ready to return to those jobs once the industry recovers. The Fairmont Royal York and others participating in the CEWS program is one important piece of that.”

UNITE HERE Local 75 is a labour union that represents over 8,000 hotel and food service workers across the GTA, a majority of whom are immigrants or racialized Canadians.