TORONTO, July 26, 2013 – A Toronto hotel has branded its employees – a group of predominantly visible minority women – as “animals” for fighting to protect their modest pay and benefits.
About 40 workers at the Toronto Plaza Hotel have been on strike for eight weeks to resist the hotel’s demands to slash wages by up to 28 per cent and to eliminate all benefits.
The hotel’s manager has referred to his employees as “animals” in a message to a provincial government mediator who has been appointed to try to resolve the labour dispute.
“I refuse to be bullied by these animals,” hotel manager Rehan Chaudary states in an email message advising the mediator that he would not negotiate with the workers.
Chaudary’s demeaning remarks were accompanied by a long list of concessionary demands including not only wage and benefits cuts, but also eliminating workers’ rights such as union representation in disciplinary meetings.
“This deplorable behaviour reflects the complete lack of respect the Toronto Plaza Hotel has for its hard-working employees, some of whom have worked at this hotel for over 20 years,” says United Steelworkers (USW) representative Mohamed Baksh.
In 2011, the workers agreed to major concessions to help the hotel’s new owners, including sacrificing many of their benefits, noted Baksh, whose union represents the striking workers.
The workers also report that the hotel, at 1677 Wilson Avenue, has deteriorated significantly since it was purchased by the current owner in 2009.
Almost half of the hotel now serves as lodging to persons on public assistance. In March of this year, a person was found dead in one of the rooms, approximately two weeks after the time of death. On May 27 of this year, a fire broke out at the hotel after a bed bug extermination machine caught fire.
Several online hotel reviews, including from TripAdvisor, have cited very poor conditions at the hotel.
The Toronto Plaza Hotel is owned by Virk Hospitality Corp. The hotel is part of a chain of businesses controlled by Rehan Chaudary’s father, Akhtar Chaudary. Included among the businesses are Virk Holdings Inc., which operates Chaudary Poultry in Wainfleet, Ont., and supplies eggs to Burnbrae Farms.
The USW is planning a major campaign to alert the public of the hotel’s practices and its refusal to treat its employees with fairness and respect.