Fired Pan Pacific Hotel workers launch wrongful termination class action

·2 min read

A union representing workers at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver has filed a class action lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging the hotel wrongfully terminated 100 employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unite Here Local 40 says the workers — many of them women and immigrants with years of service — are owed as much as $3 million in severance pay.

In a statement, the union said the Pan Pacific "concocted a plan to drastically reduce its staff from 450 workers to 80."

"Instead of informing workers of their plans, the company sent workers repeated messages delivering false hope suggesting they intended to bring workers back."

Local 40 president Zailda Chan said the hotel circumvented group termination payout regulations in the Employment Standards Act by firing workers in three batches of fewer than 50 workers.

Chan also said the hotel offered some workers $250 to sign a contract taking away their regular full-time status to become casual, on-call workers with no severance rights. Those who refused to sign were among those fired.

"Had the hotel properly notified workers of its plans to drastically reduce its workforce, this class of workers could have been entitled to receive significant payouts," said Chan.

CBC reached out to the Pan Pacific Hotel for comment but has not heard back.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented upheaval in the tourism and hospitality sector.

Statistics Canada has estimated travel restrictions could lead to a loss of 74 per cent of tourism industry jobs and a reduction in tourism industry gross domestic product of between 50 per cent to 70 percent from 2019 to 2020.

The lawsuit said lead plaintiff, Romuel Escobar, started working at the Pan Pacific in 1996 as a houseman and worked his way up to become a senior concierge in 2008.

It said Escobar held that position until he was fired "without cause and without notice" in August 2020, after working his last shift in March 2020.

The hotel has not filed a response and none of the allegations have been tested in court.