Panel: Unequal Women in BC and the Path to Recovery

Date: April 1, 6-7:30 pm

Register at 

International Women’s Day may have passed, but the struggle for gender equality hasn’t. 2020 saw a stark rise in layoffs and firings of women across British Columbia as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the systemic inequities facing women and people of colour. Women in BC’s hotel industry were hit especially hard, with almost 95% of the workforce being laid off. As we chart the path to recovery in 2021, how can we ensure that women return to their pre-pandemic jobs and livelihoods? For industries where women of colour make up the majority, such as tourism and hospitality, what is our role as activists and community members to support laid-off and fired workers?

Join us for an exciting panel on these questions and more! UNITE HERE Local 40 will be facilitating a discussion around the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on working women, particularly racialized women in the hotel industry. We will also discuss what a more just and equitable future would look like for women.

Jerty Fernandez Gaa started working at Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver as a public area attendant in 2009, maintaining public spaces such as hallways, banquet rooms, and the lobby. She was fired in late July 2020 because her hotel refused to wait until business resumed to bring her back to her job. Jerty loves working at Pan Pacific because she gets to meet people from around the world. She was devastated when she was fired and is fighting to get her job back. Jerty is also a mother of four and has lived in Canada for almost 16 years.

Rajani Tadaka is a hotel worker who has worked in the hospitality industry for seven years. Her passion is providing excellent customer service. She worked at Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver as a room attendant for five years, cleaning rooms before she was fired in 2020 just because of the pandemic. She wants to be able to return to her job at the hotel when business comes back. Rajani is a mother of two daughters who are attending university and she enjoys gardening in her spare time. 

Laura Cameron worked at Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond as a 2nd cook for 19 years, raising her kids on the job. She is a proud member of the transition team that saw the Delta hotel rebranded into what is today known as Pacific Gateway (PGH), and considers the workers there her second family. Laura spent her career at PGH in its three kitchens, cooking meals for guests. Instead of recalling workers back to their jobs, PGH fired her and other highly skilled staff in 2021. She is fighting to get her job back and believes that starting from the bottom with unskilled workers and re-training them will be time consuming and not cost-effective in the long run.

Iglika Ivanova is a Senior Economist and Public Interest Researcher at the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. She brings over a decade of experience in social and economic policy research on the key challenges of our time, and is particularly interested in exploring the potential for governments at all levels to actively foster a more just, inclusive and sustainable economy. Iglika’s community involvement on boards, in coalitions and in other advisory roles is often in service of promoting equity and empowering women and other marginalized people.

Nadine Nakagawa (she/her) was elected to New Westminster City Council in 2018. Prior to being elected,  Nadine worked on issues relating to housing, public spaces, reconciliation, public engagement, and childcare. For her work in the community, Nadine was named the 2017 Citizen of the Year at the Chamber of Commerce Platinum Awards. She co-owns a consulting business called Ablaze Services and has a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. When not working on community projects, Nadine prances with delight towards patches of wildflowers, is fond of skirts and dresses that encourage twirling, and can be found hugging trees and embracing whimsy. 

She was a 2021 finalist for the BC Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Award for the Breaking Barriers Award and is co-founder of the Feminist Campaign School. 

This event will also be livestreamed on Facebook. We encourage you to register via Zoom for a more interactive experience and to be able to ask questions through the chat.

Hilton Vancouver Metrotown Workers Launch Job Action; Unequal Women Stand Up to Protect Jobs

Vancouver, BC – Hilton Metrotown workers have initiated a partial strike action over job security. This comes on the heels of a round of permanent layoffs initiated by the Hilton to significantly cut staffing. The terminations affect long serving immigrant workers, many of them women who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic repercussions of the pandemic. The “she-cession” hit women first and hardest with greater job losses and underemployment in sectors decimated by the pandemic, like hospitality.

This week, the Hilton initiated a second round of unlawful permanent layoffs after receiving notice of the job action. UNITE HERE Local 40, which represents the workers, is pursuing legal steps to fight the unjust terminations.

Hilton Metrotown has refused to extend workers’ right to return to their jobs beyond 12 months despite the extenuating circumstances of a major public health crisis. Nearly 40 workers have been permanently terminated since last month; the hotel has made clear its plans to eliminate much of the staff, including women who have worked at the Hilton Metrotown for two decades.

Women who clean, cater to and care for Hilton guests are leading the fight to save hotel jobs from an industry intent on using the pandemic to slash and burn them.

“The hotel wants to get rid of everyone and hire new workers to replace us. Women who I have worked alongside for years are being terminated. That isn’t right. I’m worried about my job too. I’m 57 years old and have a young niece to support. Who will offer me a job at my age if I have to start all over again? Women like me made our hotel successful. That’s why we are leading the fight to protect our jobs,” said Gemma De la Torre, Hilton Metrotown room attendant.

“Vancouver’s tourism industry was built on the backs of women. Shame on the hotel industry for its pandemic profiteering. We say ‘No’ to unequal women in the hotel industry, because that will hurt the economic recovery for all of us,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40.

The Union is currently in negotiations with Hilton Metrotown.

Media Contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], or Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785, [email protected].

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel Over Reckless Mass Terminations of Long-Term Workers

Vancouver, BC — Today, UNITE HERE Local 40 announced that a class action lawsuit has been filed against the Pan Pacific Vancouver on behalf of workers wrongfully terminated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The suit, which was filed on behalf of current and former hourly employees, alleges the hotel misled workers, wrongfully terminated them without cause or notice, and were cheated out of pay owed to them for their years of service. The case was filed by a long-term employee who had worked at the hotel for 24 years until he was unexpectedly terminated along with dozens of his co-workers in August.

Early in the pandemic, hotel management concocted a plan to drastically reduce its staff from 450 workers to 80 and to dismiss the rest.  Instead of informing workers of their plans, the company sent workers repeated messages delivering false hope suggesting they intended to bring workers back.

Pan Pacific began terminating staff in batches, without cause or advance notice. The suit alleges that the hotel did this to avoid group termination provisions in the Employment Standards Act that requires advance notice and would trigger larger payouts to workers.

Between firings, the hotel offered workers $250 to sign a contract taking away their regular full-time status to become casual, on-call workers and waive their severance rights. Those who refused to sign were among those fired.

“The Pan Pacific’s actions were dishonest, self-serving, and reprehensible. Rather than keep their workforce intact, the hotel failed to communicate its termination plan to workers and strung them along with no regard for their future at a time when unemployment in the hotel sector has reached Depression-era levels. No hotel should be allowed to get away with this, which is why Pan Pacific workers are fighting back for what they deserve,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40.

Many of the affected Pan Pacific workers are immigrants and women with families who have served the hotel for more than 20 or even 30 years. 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. If successful, workers could be owed as much as $3 million.

The high-end Pan Pacific Vancouver, located at Canada Place, is owned by an affiliate of Westmont Hospitality Group. Westmont is one of the world’s largest privately held hospitality companies with over 500 hotels worldwide.

Media Contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], or Michelle Travis, [email protected], 778-960-9785


UNITE HERE Local 40 is a labour union representing workers in the hotel, food service and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at