Sheraton Hotel in Ottawa terminates 70 employees on temporary leave due to pandemic
OTTAWA -- Seventy employees of the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Ottawa, who were on temporary layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic, say they were just told their layoff will be permanent.
“They just sent us a very cold letter that our job has been terminated,” says former server at the Sheraton, Mohamed Alam.
He received one of the letters sent to senior employees of 263-room hotel, which is one of the largest in the city.
“I love my job and I like working. I don’t even call in sick,” says Alam. “I worked more than 30 years and that was my family. And one thing that makes me very sad is, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
CTV News tried reaching the general manager of the Sheraton but she has yet to respond. The union says the hotel is still open with a staff of about nine employees.
Since last October, UNITE HERE, the union that represents employees at the hotel, has been asking the Sheraton to extend the expiring temporary layoff another 52 weeks. Sheraton refused to do so.
“It totally blindsided the workers that we represent,” says Melissa Sobers, Researcher at UNITE HERE Labour Union. “It comes at absolutely no cost to the employer to extend the recall rights for workers. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Sean McKenny, President of the Ottawa and District Labour Council, says the decision not to extend the layoff recall is strange.
“The union has approached all the other hotels that it has an agreement with and there was no problem to extend that recall provision within the collective agreement,” says McKenny.
Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden says he is disgusted at what the hotel has done to its loyal employees and is ready to take action if necessary.
“I think it’s a really disgraceful way to treat people who made your hotel one of the best hotels in the city,” says Harden. “And if this employer thinks they’re going to staff that hotel with a bunch of perma-temps and people at minimum wage, whatever their corporate strategy is, without a fight, they’re wrong. We’re going to fight them on this. They should do the right thing.”
This is a confusing time for those who have been terminated, especially Alam, who in 2011 was the hotel's associate of the year.
“The thing is, I gave almost all my life there,” says Alam. “30 years is a long time of my life I gave there. And this is what's happening now.”