Call for change to crew billet

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Striking workers from the Sheraton in Richmond walk the streets outside the hotel. Picture: RICHMOND NEWS

Hundreds of Canadian hotel workers are calling on Fiji Airways to immediately cease billeting the airline’s cabin crew at the Hilton Hotel at Vancouver Airport.

The call has been made in support of striking workers at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel.

The Sheraton Vancouver Airport is owned by the Larco Hospitality Group, which also operates the Hilton Vancouver Airport hotels where Fiji Airways crew is accommodated.

A statement from Unite Here Local 40, the trade union representing the workers, said that over the past eight months, workers of Sheraton Vancouver Airport had been on strike, demanding fair living wages.

The union criticised Fiji Airways for continuing to send their flight crew to the Hilton.

Since the beginning of the strike, the union said, five airlines had withdrawn their business from the hotel complex in solidarity.

These are WestJet, Porter Airlines, UPS, American Airlines and Japan Airlines.

“Sheraton workers’ picket line extends around the whole complex, including in front of the Hilton where Fiji Airways sends its flight crews,” the statement said.

The union said many striking hotel workers were Fijians. A Fijian room attendant on strike, Ana Dikili Musuvanua, said she had worked at the Sheraton YVR Hotel for 31 years.

“It is owned by one of Canada’s richest families, but they don’t pay us enough to support ourselves and our families. This is why we walked out on strike,” she said.

Unite Here Local 40 president Zailda Chan also criticised the Fiji Government for its inaction and said it was “indefensible” that the Fijian Government, a majority shareholder of Fiji Airways, would undermine the economic struggles of Fijians abroad.

“If Agni Deo Singh, Fiji’s Minister for Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations, is serious about fighting for worker’s rights, he must use his position of influence to pressure the airline to change hotels,” she said.

“I reject Civil Aviation Minister Viliame Gavoka’s statement that the Government should ‘leave Fiji Airways alone’ to run its business, given that Fijian taxpayers bailed the airline out to the tune of $455 million during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The union further added that striking workers had protested Fiji Airways flight crews who checked in to the Hilton YVR hotel earlier this month. Fiji flight attendants Trade Union president Joe McGowan expressed his union’s solidarity with the Canadian workers.

“The administrators of Unite Here have been in touch with us seeking assistance in this matter. This has only happened recently as well,” he said.

“In the matter of moving hotels, Fiji Airways are aware as we have requested that they look at the contract with a view to move us out. This was done as soon as Unite Here contacted us.

Moving hotels for us is not as simple as there are contract matters that need to be sorted out.

“Preferably we would move as soon as we can, however, we cannot do it by ourselves as the company (Fiji Airways) is the other stakeholder here.”

Questions have been sent to Fiji Airways, Mr Singh.

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