June 24, 2010 / 6:29 PM / in 7 years

Toronto hotel workers strike ahead of G20 summit

TORONTO (Reuters) - Employees at a downtown Toronto hotel hosting Group of 20 summit delegates walked off the job on Thursday, two days before the gathering of world leaders begins.

Several dozen picketing workers at the Hotel Novotel Toronto Center blocked traffic, banged pots and blew “vuvuzela” noise-makers outside the French-owned hotel.

“Our motive, our agenda is not to strike for the G20, to hold the city hostage,” Rik Hockley, a banquet server and bargaining committee member said, as strikers chanted behind him. “We don’t want it to affect our guests.”

“At the same time, the media from around the world is here, so it’s another venue for us to show our frustration, to show the world, the head office back in France that this is how your company is treating workers in North America.”

French, Brazilian, Japanese and Indonesian ambassadors were booked at the Novotel for the G20 summit being held this weekend, said Hockley in media reports.

Novotel employs 81 unionized workers.

The strike action came as employees at one of Toronto’s busiest hotels, the Fairmont Royal York, filed to decertify from their union, calling the organization’s threat to go on strike “bully tactics.”

Mohsin Bhuiyan, a server at the hotel’s restaurant Epic, said that the 850 unionized Royal York employees could have otherwise gone on strike today as well. He said workers were unhappy with the union for not representing their wishes and creating conflict among members.

Bhuiyan said American, British and German delegates were said to be among those staying at the Royal York.

Employees at both hotels are among the 7,000 hospitality industry members in the Greater Toronto Area belonging to UNITE HERE Local 75. They have been working without a contract since the previous agreement expired at the beginning of this year.

A bigger rally in front of the Novotel is planned for later on Thursday, where strikers expect union staffers from other hotels to join in the protest.

Reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Mario Di Simine

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