SOFITEL Philippine Plaza Hotel workers called on Philippine Plaza Holdings, Inc. (PPHI) to honor their collective bargaining rights by retaining their employment on the pretext that the hotel will be reopening.

“We are asking for very little: respect our collective bargaining agreement,” Nestor L. Cabada, National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant & Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN) Philippine Plaza Chapter president, said in Filipino at a Monday press briefing. “The workers of Sofitel want no terminations; employment should be continuous without any loss of seniority rights and benefits.”

PPHI president Esteban G. Peña Sy told BusinessWorld in a Viber message that the management is uncertain about the hotel’s future and that union workers’ assumption that the 50-year-old hotel will be closing only to be rehabilitated is “totally wrong.”

“Since we do not own the land on which Sofitel Philippine Plaza is located, we are uncertain of the future of the hotel. We cannot make any commitment on something that we are not sure or in control of,” he said.

“Since it is the advice of experts that the 50-year-old hotel is not safe for its guests and employees, the owners have made the painful decision to close it down, even though the hotel is having its historical best business performance in its 48 years of operation since last year.”

During the press briefing, NUWHRAIN deputy secretary general Marco Aristeo J. Gojol said there are over 1,000 Sofitel employees, many of whom are contractual workers.

Union members accused the management of “union busting: for choosing to hire more contractual or casual laborers once it supposedly re-opens.

Mr. Cabada urged the management to rehire present employees rather than transfer them to other hotels. “Why terminate them? Why transfer them to another hotel if you are going to reopen? Why not rehire them to continue the excellent service provided by the hotel’s employees?” he said at the briefing.

Mr. Peña Sy said the accusation of union busting is untrue. “If the hotel wants to bust the unions, it should have done it during the pandemic time. During the COVID days, Sofitel did not fire any single employee but continued to give the workers all their benefits despite the fact that the hotel was losing money,” he said.

In May, Mr. Peña Sy told BusinessWorld that all Sofitel employees would be granted separation packages whether or not they are union members.

He said there are over 200 vacancies for employees in other hotels and that Sofitel employees will be offered employment in other Accor-managed properties and hotels ranging from junior to supervisor roles.

The hotel will close on July 1, 2024, but will continue to honor reservations made prior.

It was built in 1973 and opened in 1976. Four years later, it was purchased by Accor, joining the group’s hotel brands Novotel, Mercure, and Ibis. — Chloe Mari A. Hufana