T.O. hotel workers say green programs are 'fake'
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, May 5, 2010 4:10PM EDT
TORONTO - Toronto hotels are duping guests into believing they are being eco-friendly by promoting what amounts to fake green programs -- and it's costing housekeeping attendants their jobs, upset workers charged Wednesday.
Room attendants from the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, the Delta Chelsea and Delta East hotels are decrying the programs, in which guests are offered a $5 to $10 voucher for food or beverages if they decline housekeeping.
The Make a Green Choice program at the Sheraton and the Green Stay model at Delta are initiatives aimed at conserving energy, but workers say it's having the opposite effect.
"It's fake green because the guests put their TV on. They leave the lights on. We're not saving the electricity," said Brigida Ruiz, a room attendant at the Sheraton for 18 years.
"When we go in after three days of not being cleaned we have to use a lot of cleaning liquid and water, so that is not green at all."
While Ruiz has seniority, she said other staff have watched their shifts vanish as more than 80 guests have participated by hanging the green notices outside their door each night.
"You're scheduled for five days and when they (staff) collect all the green choices, you only have two days a week," said Kayann Drummond, who works in guest services at the hotel.
Staff are still trying to get back on their feet after hotels in the city took a hit during the recession, and this plan -- implemented in the fall -- has set workers back, Drummond said.
Less than a dozen workers voiced their concerns outside the Sheraton on Wednesday.
Unite Here, the union representing hotel workers, estimates between 30 to 40 eight-hour shifts are lost by room attendants every week at the hotel.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which owns the Sheraton, released a statement saying more than 200,000 guests have participated in the program resulting in a reduction in water consumption of more than 8.2 million gallons, or the equivalent of 132 million glasses of water.
More than 100 hotels have the program, and the company says those facilities have saved approximately 38,000 kilowatts of electricity and reduced chemical-use by 11,000 gallons.
Delta Chelsea spokeswoman Sandy Indig said its program, which began in mid-April, will be tested for one month. Analysis and feedback from guests or employees will be weighed after that period.
"We are strictly just testing it in a small number of our properties to see what the response is," said Indig, adding she hasn't heard any formal complaints from workers or guests.
"We're always looking for ways to introduce new environmental programs to help us reduce our impact."
Many of the hotel workers said they encourage eco-friendly changes, and some even wore a green ribbon to show support for sustainable strategies.
Ruiz pointed to a long-running program -- still present in many hotels -- which allowed guests to turn down daily towel and linen services as a way to conserve energy.
Winnie Ng, the Co-Chair of Good Green Jobs for All Coalition, said the new model is robbing people of work.
"The hotel is doing the three Rs -- reduce the hours, reduce the pay and reduce the number of workers," said Ng as she shouted outside the flagship hotel in Toronto.
"The only thing green for this project is the money and profit that are lining their pockets."