Nearly 1,000 downtown hotel workers hit the streets Thursday, launching an indefinite strike as they fight for higher pay, benefits and better working conditions.
Nym Calves has been cleaning rooms at the Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront for four years and now she's loudly walking the picket line with her co-workers.
"We're striking because it's been 14 months that we haven't had a contract and we haven't received a fair offer from the company," said Calves, who says she's sometimes required to clean as many as 15 rooms in a single shift.
"Sometimes we have to miss our lunch breaks, our coffee breaks, just to finish rooms."
Union workers at the Pinnacle, the Hyatt and the Westin Bayshore – all members of Unite Here Local 40 – walked off the job, vowing to picket from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until a deal is reached.
"As far as I know, we are nowhere close to a resolution, bargaining has not been successful, which is why we're taking the streets today," said Sharan Pawa, spokesperson for Unite Here Local 40. "The workers are united and they will not stop striking until they have the contract that they want."
Cab drivers continued to pull up in front of the hotels, dropping unsuspecting tourists off right at the picket lines.
It happened to Californian John Bratu, who made a reservation at the Pinnacle months ago, only to be told there was no room available when he arrived to check in.
"We couldn't get in because they don't have personnel to run the rooms and take care of all the new guests so they had to divert us to another hotel," he said, before hailing his own cab.
The workers say the strike is about more than money, complaining that full-time shifts get slashed to two or three a week when the hotel is slow, and employee benefits disappear along with the hours.
"It happened to me for the last couple of years," said Calves. "Especially when we get into the slow season, we don’t get full-time hours."
Nobody from hotel management was immediately available for comment on the strike.