Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

August 20, 2009 14:30 ET

International Pickets Target Sun Life

Unions Protest Worker Mistreatment at Hotel Property

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 20, 2009) - Sun Life Financial - one of Canada's largest companies - found itself the target of international protests today. Representatives of three labor federations descended on the company's headquarters in Manila, the Philippines - a major market for Sun Life.

Protestors picketed the company's headquarters and distributed leaflets calling on the company to protect the conditions of Filipino workers employed at a hotel that Sun Life holds the mortgage on.

"If Sun Life wants to do business in the Philippines," noted Democrito Mendoza, president of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, "the very least we can expect in return is that it will guarantee fair treatment for Filipino workers in the properties it controls."

Sun Life is the primary investor in the Pacific Beach Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii. Pacific Beach Hotel has been charged by the U.S. government with 15 counts of violating federal labor law, including intimidating, coercing and firing employees for union activism. In December 2007, Pacific Beach Hotel refused to negotiate with the workers' legally elected union, and terminated 32 employees, including most of the elected union leaders. In response, a boycott of the hotel was called by the Hawaii labor federation, and then by the national labor federations of both the USA (AFL-CIO) and Japan (RENGO).

This past May, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Ontario Federation of Labour sent pickets to Sun Life's annual shareholder meeting in Toronto, calling on the company to guarantee fair treatment for workers in this property.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) recently joined with the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and the Alliance of Independent Hotel and Restaurant Workers Unions (AIHRWU) in calling for Filipinos to support this boycott. The three unions together represent close to one million workers in the Philippines.

The majority of employees at the Pacific Beach Hotel are Filipino, and they appealed for support from their home country. "The workers at Pacific Beach Hotel work so hard," explained Virgie Recaido. "We cook the food, we make the beds, we clean the rooms, we do everything to make the hotel a success - just so we can make a better life for our kids. But the management treats us with no respect and no dignity."

The union representing these hotel workers - International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 142 - has asked Sun Life to use its relationship with Pacific Beach Hotel to guarantee fair treatment for the workers. To date, Sun Life has refused to get involved.

"These hard-working people deserve to be treated with respect, and they deserve a fair contract," stated Ontario Labour Federation president Wayne Samuelson. "It's an embarrassment for a leading Canadian company to be developing a worldwide reputation because it won't support these most basic principles. We here in Toronto - like unionists around the world - call on Sun Life to do the right thing."

Contact Information

  • OFL
    Wayne Samuelson
    President
    416.571.7408 (mobile)
    www.ofl.ca