In Vancouver, Canada, hotel workers for the Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport Hotel are asking Cunard Line to stop booking cruise passengers for pre- and post-cruise stays at the property, where a labor dispute has been underway for two years.
Local union members have written an open letter to the cruise line, alerting them to the situation and suggesting partner ethics concerns.
Cruise lines regularly partner with specific hotel chains and properties to arrange pre- and post-cruises stays for guests as option add-ons to their cruise vacations.
This is especially popular for travelers who must fly to cruise homeports, when it is advisable to arrive before embarkation day to ensure not missing the cruise ship because of flight delays.
Cunard Line, however, is raising the eyebrows of local union members of Unite Here Local 40 in Richmond, Canada, over its use of the Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport Hotel. The 388-room property is just 30 minutes from Vancouver’s Canada Place cruise terminal, where Queen Elizabeth has been homeported for the Alaska sailing season.
According to CityNews Vancouver, the hotel has been involved in a labor dispute since May 2021, after mass layoffs of long-term employees during the pandemic caused excessive terminations when the one-year recall rights in their contracts expired. The loss of benefits and lowering of wages are other issues in dispute with the strike.
With Cunard Line continuing to use the property for cruise guests, striking workers note that the cruise line may be breaking ethics agreements. Furthermore, they believe guests should be informed of the strike prior to staying at the hotel.
“Why isn’t Cunard putting Queen Elizabeth guests into a fully staffed hotel that treats workers with appropriate decency?” the open letter from the union reads. “We believe that this behaviour contradicts Cunard’s business partner code of conduct and ethics, which sets out an expectation for all business partners to conduct their activities in a manner that adheres to applicable employment laws and respects human rights.”
The open letter is addressed not only to Cunard, but also to Carnival UK and Carnival Corporation as affiliated and parent companies.
This is the longest active strike in Canada in any industry, and the longest hotel strike in British Columbia history. During the two years of the strike, the hotel has used different techniques to work around anti-scab laws (a scab is a strikebreaker, someone who continues to work despite an active strike).
For example, the hotel can assign additional tasks to non-union workers, such as managers, that would otherwise be jobs for union members. The property has been found guilty of several labor violations using unlawful replacement workers, however.
Because the hotel has remained largely in operation during the strike, there is little financial incentive for the property to meet the demands of striking workers. The workers hope that, if Cunard Line ceases housing cruise guests at the Radisson Blu, it would be a greater financial blow and would spark better negotiations.
Cunard Line has not commented on the strike or its use of the property for cruise travelers. The 90,900-gross ton Queen Elizabeth is Cunard Line’s only vessel homeported in Vancouver for the Alaska season, and is offering roundtrip sailings that visit top Alaskan ports such as Sitka, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, and Ketchikan.
Queen Elizabeth is currently sailing her last Alaska cruise of the season, and will now reposition to Barcelona via San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale.
During the fall and winter, the ship will offer Western Mediterranean sailings from Barcelona, as well as short seasons in Singapore, Australia, and Japan before returning to Vancouver in June 2024.
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