The union representing many of Canada’s hotel and hospitality workers says almost all its 18,000 members face layoffs due to COVID-19, and it wants immediate help for service workers across the country.

Unite Here officials estimate their members and more than 200,000 other service-industry workers will be unemployed as up to 90 per cent of Canada’s hotels are expected to close amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Zailda Chan, president of Unite Here Local 40 in Vancouver, says hospitality workers are primarily immigrants, women, single parents and people of colour, often living paycheque to paycheque.

She says an 80 per cent wage replacement program is needed because newly announced federal supports or employment insurance will not be enough for workers making about $20 per hour.

Ian Robb, an Edmonton-based Canadian director of Unite Here, says the union must also be consulted as governments consider the take over of shuttered hotels to ease the burden on crowded hospitals.

He supports the move to put  “less needy” patients into hotels but says Unite Here wants to be  “part of the conversation” about who will operate the hotels and work in them.

Chan says the union also hopes any bailouts to the hotel and airline industries will include measures to help employees, such as extension of medical benefits.

“Hospitality workers were hit first and hit the hardest,” Chan said during a teleconference, adding they are among the lowest-paid and face a recovery period that could last six months to a year.

“Eighty per cent wage replacement is not just for hospitality workers, it is for all workers. We are highlighting hospitality workers because we represent thousands in that sector, but we think it should be for all workers,” she said.

Unite Here members are employed in six locals across Canada, in hotels, casinos, airports, arenas, universities, schools and remote resource camps, the union said.

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