The management of Hotel Espresso in downtown Montreal is disputing the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) claim that its employees are on lockout.
The CSN represents 5,500 people in the hotel industry in Quebec at 35 different hotels.
Unionized hotel workers and their employers have been negotiating their contracts in Quebec throughout the summer. The negotiations have often been hampered by 24-hour strikes, walkouts, and lockouts across the province.
On Sunday, September 9, a 24-hour strike occurred at the Gouverneur Hotel Place Dupuis. This strike was just one of many that have been occurring in Montreal and throughout the province since unionized hotel employee contracts expired in May.
Issues under negotiation include wage increases of three per cent, job security, and pension increases, according to the CSN.
CSN Spokesperson Michel Valiquette told The Daily that the 24-hour strikes occurred “to put pressure for an agreement at the other hotels that have agreements already.”
According to the CSN website, three hotels in Montreal have remained on lockout since August: The Holiday Inn Select, Hotel Maritime Plaza, and the Hotel Espresso.
Stefano De Vito, general manager of the Hotel Espresso, said that the employees at his hotel are on strike, not locked-out.
“This is not a lockout; it is a strike […] they can come in anytime they want, they can come back to work, they are free to work,” he told The Daily.
The CSN website says that Hotel Espresso prevented eighty of its employees from entering the workplace on August 16.
De Vito disagrees.
“We were negotiating, and at noon we left for lunch, and [the union] planned a manifestation while we were negotiating,” he said. “I saw it as a sign of provocation, so I said I was going to cancel the afternoon negotiations.”
Jessica Insogna, a front desk employee at the hotel and U1 Kinesiology student at McGill, told The Daily that the union distributed t-shirts during negotiations.
“They gave them out to all the union employees and said ‘wear them to work tomorrow,’” she said.
After De Vito found out, he allegedly told the workers that they would be sent home if they wore the t-shirts the next day.
“And then the next day, apparently, we were on strike. Most of the front desk employees weren’t aware of what was happening,” said Insogna. “I would say ninety per cent of the front desk staff didn’t get a phone call to turn up at the General Assembly to vote.”
Insogna said she was not allowed to return to work because of her status as a unionized worker.
Of the 35 hotels that started negotiations this past summer, 15 have reached agreements with hotel management as of press time. Twenty hotels across Quebec remain in negations that will continue into October and November.
When asked if there was a threat of more strikes, Valiquette replied, “It is still a possibility. We would like to give a chance to the negotiations. If we don’t, for sure it will be a possibility to have another 24-hour strike or more.”
The general manager of the Holiday Inn Select did not wish to comment on the issue. The Hotel Maritime Plaza was not able to be reached by press time.