Published: 09/06/2010

Since 2008 workers at three Accor hotels in Canada, have been organizing to win union recognition and collective bargaining rights in the face of fierce opposition from management.

Several workers at the Novotel Mississauga, Novotel North York, and Novotel Ottawa have been fired or punished with reduced shifts or hours after becoming public union supporters. Management has repeatedly pressured workers to vote ‘no’ in union elections.

UNITE HERE! Local 75, which represents more than 6000 workers in 40 Greater Toronto Hotels, including Novotel Toronto Centre, has filed dozens of complaints of labour law violations against Accor management, and community leaders and local politicians have expressed their outrage at the ant-union actions of these hotels.

The Novotel chain is part of the Accor Group of Hotels, which operates 3,982 hotels worldwide with over 150,000 employees. In 1995 Accor signed an agreement with the IUF, by which they undertook “not to oppose efforts to unionize its employees”‘ The agreement also states that the company “considers respect for union rights to be part of the good reputation of its brand names.”

At the Novotel Mississauga in April 2009, 64% of workers demonstrated their support for the union by signing union cards. Despite this, less than a month later only 40% of workers voted for the union – a measure of intense pressure and threats from management.

Myriam Toribo has worked at the Novotel since 2000. She has been an active supporter of the campaign to unionize the hotel since 2005. Over this time, like many of her co-workers, she has been subject to harassment and discrimination for being a union supporter. This has included being told by a manager that the union ‘is not good for you’ in one-on-one meetings, and not being allocated shifts in accordance with her seniority in line with normal practice at the hotel.

In February this year, the situation escalated when Myriam was fired from her employment at the hotel with no due process. This came after the Hotel had implemented new policies to try and discourage housekeepers from talking to each other either during or before their shifts. Myriam’s termination was then announced to the other housekeeping staff to frighten and discourage them from supporting the union. Other union supporters were also told to ‘watch out’ as they could be next.

In April this year, workers at the Novotel Ottawa showed overwhelming support for the union, and Unite Here! Local 75 called for a recognition ballot. Management then ran an aggressive ‘Vote No’ campaign in the run up to the ballot. This included firing union supporters and holding captive audience meetings with workers to dissuade them from supporting the union. On the day before the ballot, a letter was delivered individually to each worker, encouraging them to vote ‘no’. This pressure led to a 50% vote in favour of the union, just short of the number needed to secure recognition.

At a recent union rally Jeff Segat, a young father of two who helped lead the organizing drive and was fired from his position as cook at the Novotel Ottawa three weeks before the recognition ballot, told supporters “I’m not giving up, and we’re not giving up!” The spotlight will continue on Accor’s anti-union record in the coming weeks during the G20 summit and alternative civil society People’s Summit. Workers at the Novotel Toronto have overwhelmingly voted in favor of strike action (click here for more information).

In October 2009, the Accor European Works Council called on the company to fully respect the International Trade Union Rights Agreement with the IUF and comply with their commitment to protect employees against all acts of discrimination that tend to violate freedom of association by positively engaging with Unite Here! Despite European and international pressure, the company refuses to sign an agreement with Unite Here! guaranteeing freedom of association.

Accor workers in Canada need your support – click here to send a strong message to Accor! Tell the company that violations of the international trade union rights agreement with the IUF will not be tolerated, and that they should immediately recognize the union at these hotels. Union supporters who were fired since the organizing campaign went public must be reinstated, and those who were victimized through lost shifts or hours must have their pay and conditions restored.