Workers at Heritage Inn Hotels in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw are walking the picket, with contract talks brought to a halt over a wage dispute.
Hotel staff including housekeepers, front desk staff, banquet servers and cooks were locked out on Sep. 7, and were still out on the picket line along Saskatoon’s Airport Drive on Thursday.
UFCW Local 1400, the union representing the workers, says their employer came to the bargaining table with a list of concessions for workers and no offer for them to vote on.
“They demand that benefits and protections in current agreements be removed entirely,” according to a news release from the union.
“The workers have negotiated for many years to earn these benefits, like vision, dental and sick pay, and do not deserve for them to be removed,” it says.
UFCW 1400 President Lucia Flack Figueiredo said hotel workers were asked to “risk their health and safety during the COVID pandemic, and now the employer wants to put them on the street.”
In a statement sent to CTV News on Thursday, Heritage Inn said the union was to blame for the stalemate.
“The reality is that the UFCW has found itself in a lockout situation because the UFCW has failed to engage with the Heritage Inn in bargaining.”
Heritage Inn says the union has been without an agreement since 2019, when bargaining was suspended during the pandemic, “as the union’s bargaining team refused to engage in virtual negotiations.”
Wages are a clear point of contention between the hotel and UFCW.
The union says Heritage Inn is trying to keep starting wages at the legal minimum, with increases tied to government-mandated increases in the minimum wage, set to increase from $13 to $14 an hour on Oct. 1, and up to $15 an hour in October 2024.
Saskatchewan currently has the lowest minimum wage in Canada, followed by Prince Edward Island, at $13.70 an hour.
“Outside of the minimum wage increases, they have offered only the most nominal of increases to the members, in specific classifications, ranging from $0.09 to $0.83 per hour over the almost 7-year term that they are proposing for the new collective agreement,” UFCW says.
Hotel management told CTV News the union’s bargaining unit keeps rejecting its proposals “without offering any explanation or engaging in meaningful discussion.”
They say their goal is to introduce “flexibility and efficiency” into the collective agreement.
Heritage Inn claims 80 per cent of the workers have accepted the hotel’s offer to cross the picket line and continue working.