People may have thought that the picketers marching in front of the Super 8 Hotel on Main Street N in Moose Jaw are on strike, but the hotel has issued a lockout on its housekeeping and front desk staff.
The difference between a strike and a lockout is that a strike is initiated by the employees or a workers union, and a lockout is when the employer or the company locks out the employees from the business and keeps them from working.
A strike or lockout is usually due to disagreements with updating contracts and renewals between the company and the staff.
The housekeeping and front desk staff at Super 8 are represented under the Unite Here Local 41 workers union.
The union’s contract with Super 8 was set to expire in October of 2021. They asked to renew the contract for another 5 years with no pay raises or changes to the collective agreement to help the company bounce back from the pandemic.
Super 8 decided it wanted to negotiate new terms for the contract and brought forward a 4-page list of approximately 60 demands for new amendments and deletions of contract clauses that were agreed upon by the union and the company.
Super 8 refused to speak on the matter over the phone but sent Discover Moose Jaw a statement via email.
In its statement, it said that the hotel has experienced an extremely low occupancy rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also said that the recovery is on a long timeline and getting to a “full recovery” might not ever be reached due to people now relying on meeting and communicating virtually.
The statement also said:
“In the bargaining sessions between Unite Here Local 41 and the Super 8, the Super 8 was seeking some changes that would give the hotel more flexibility to manage its operations, with management and union workers working side by side, as a team, rather than creating an adversarial workplace mentality. The Super 8 was not looking for wage reductions as part of bargaining – the focus was on workplace flexibility, to ensure that the Super 8 can come out of the pandemic, deal with the challenging recovery, and respond to global changes in the way we meet and interact. The negotiations were not successful, as the Union was not willing to consider the proposals of the Super 8, which would grant the flexibility needed to manage a hotel through the recovery from the global pandemic that has devastated the hospitality industry.”
According to union President Gary Whalen who has been in the job for over 40 years, the union cannot agree to the majority of Super 8’s demands because the proposals would delete essentially all of the workers’ rights under the union. As well as eradicate the union’s authority over the work environment, the employee schedules, and other aspects.
“Because of their demands and because of the way they had meetings with us over certain issues, nothing has been resolved. They just want to snowball us, keep us out on lockout and the union to fold,” says Whalen.
He also told Discover Moose Jaw that the employees were sent letters from the management staff after the lockout, telling them that they could return to work for less pay and if they cut ties with the union.
Super 8’s list of demands includes giving full control of the scheduling to management, not issuing a set number of hours, management designating the employee's breaks, removing the 6 weeks of vacation, altering the employee's vacation pay, taking away some of the Federal Holidays that were in place, remove their incentive bonuses, adjusting their collective agreement, and many other demands.
Whalen claims that the majority of these clauses were originally under the authority of the union. He told Discover Moose Jaw that if he agreed to these demands, the union would have no authority over the workers, and therefore would be unable to represent or protect them.
He adds that the employees were also registered in a health plan through the union and that plan would be taken away if the union agreed to Super 8’s demands.
The negotiations are ongoing and workers are continuing to march and picket outside of the Super 8 Hotel.
“These negotiations, unless the company agrees to sit down and put the people back to work and negotiate in good faith, these negotiations will go until somebody quits and it won’t be us,” says Whalen.