Toronto hotel workers hold another walkout

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Actor Martin Sheen joins picket line

Musican K’naan performs outside of the Bell Lightbox building during a block party marking the official opening of the building in Toronto Sunday. The Bell Lightbox building is the new home of the Toronto International Film Festival. — Photo by The C

Dozens of flag-waving hotel workers staged another one-day walkout on Sunday outside a downtown hotel at the hub of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan, who marched alongside workers on an “alternative red carpet” outside the Hyatt Regency, called on the hotel’s owner to “share the wealth.”

“I think what they’re trying to do is lock in poverty level wages, or a recessionary level of wages in with these workers going forward,” said Ryan.

Toronto’s hotels have been booked up solid throughout the summer, noted Ryan.

The Hyatt Regency, like others, has emerged from the recession and is making modest improvements to its bottom line, he said.

“If you’re making profits and you’re doing it as a result of the sweat off the brow of these workers, the least you can do is share some of the wealth with these workers,” said Ryan.

It was the fourth one-day strike by city hotel workers since Sept. 3 and the second to hit the Hyatt Regency.

The protest did not block guests from entering the hotel.

On Friday, actor and longtime labour activist Martin Sheen and his actor son, Emilio Estevez, showed their support for hotel workers by joining the picket line outside the Fairmont Royal York. That’s something Ryan calls “fantastic.”

On Saturday, workers at a Holiday Inn staged a one-day walkout.

Sunday’s demonstration got a few curious glances from people attending the TIFF Bell Lightbox block party, which was held only steps away. The street party featured food, face-painting and music from artists such as K’naan, who was scheduled to perform later in the afternoon.

Talks broke down between management and the union representing 150 workers at the Hyatt Regency Sept. 3. No new talks are scheduled.

The workers are seeking a 10 per cent wage increase over three years while the employer is offering five per cent over five years. Pensions, shift hours and health benefits are other issues.

The Hyatt Regency, Holiday Inn and Fairmont Royal York are among the 13 owned or operated by Westmont Group that are bargaining with the union.

Workers at 10 hotels who are in a legal strike position will be taking part in more one-day walkouts in the next two weeks, said Unite Here Local 75 president Paul Clifford.

Organizations: Hyatt Regency, Toronto hotel, Ontario Federation of Labour Fairmont Royal York Holiday Inn Westmont Group

Geographic location: Toronto

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