WTC’s campaign lead, Mahtab, spoke at the launch of Unite Here Local 40's Unequal Women report that shows the impact of jobs terminated due to the pandemic on women of colour, specifically those who worked in the BC hotel industry. Findings show how, "In 4 of the 5 hotels, women of colour comprise the majority of terminated women." .
My name is Mahtab speaking on behalf of Women Transforming Cities. Since the pandemic began, we’ve been alarmed to see how thousands of women have been laid off, especially low-income and racialized hotel workers, largely ignored by the governments meant to protect them and shut out by their employees who have made a profit by government subsidies. This is why we stand here with Unite Here to support the launch of the Unequal Women report that sheds light on how women hotel workers have been treated and must be protected in a now-precarious industry.
The issue of lost wages is not exclusive to Vancouver. We know that the global impact of the pandemic has cost women $800 billion in lost income–this is a combined GDP of 98 countries. And women in the hospitality industry have faced the brunt of this. But the issue we are talking about today is also marked by the overrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, Asian and racialized women in Vancouver’s hotel industry. It is unacceptable, especially for a city facing an affordability crisis of this magnitude, that women who are pillars of our tourism industry, are being shut out of their jobs by hotels. These are the same women who have given years of service to our city and throughout the Olympics who are now forgotten and not able to return to their jobs by the industries that have profited from their labour for so long. These are mothers and grandmothers supporting their families and their communities with their wages.
We know that women are already overrepresented in informal labour that, because unregulated, make them more susceptible to exploitation and violence. Women’s care work, also primarily racialized, has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Women Transforming Cities is calling out these conditions that work together to impact the quality of life of racialized working women in our city, and should be treated as serious concerns. We hope that with the release of the Unequal Women report, we will be restoring the voice and value of women who have given so much to our communities. This is Women Transforming City’s commitment as an organization, as we push policymakers and employers to implement the recommendations outlined in the report.
We should be here, with the leadership of working women, with all three levels of government, as well as the companies that employ women, to improve the conditions for low-income women in our city and province, to figure out how we can build the necessary mechanisms that will equip us to address the challenges women face now! Instead, we are meeting to fight for the bare minimum and what has been lost due to greed, negligence, and the economic crisis in which we have been made invisible. We call on provincial leaders to ensure that no employer can terminate long-term staff as a result of the pandemic, and federal leaders to condition employers’ pandemic subsidies on worker retention to ensure these workers have priority over their replacements.