An apology from management at Novotel Hotel in Ottawa for its disciplinary actions against workers who are fighting for unionization came three years too late, says a former employee.

Jeff Segat, a former chef at the Nicholas Street hotel, said he was dismissed from his job two years after he raised the issue of starting a union.

Now, he is working with UNITE HERE, the union hotel employees are seeking to join.

In a letter signed by general manager Rafael Ballester, the hotel apologized to current employees for breaking the law.

“It has been brought to our attention by our lawyers that we have been applying our ‘no solicitation’ rule at the hotel in a manner which is inconsistent with the Ontario Labour laws,” the letter said. “We apologize for this and we wish to clarify for everyone the ‘no solicitation’ policy as it applies to union activities on the hotel premises.”

The letter said employees are permitted to engage in union talk while on authorized breaks.

Segat has been on a three-year campaign since being given the boot and he said the letter is “too little, too late.”

“The damage has already been done,” he said. “This was given to us recently as we’re before the Ontario Labour Relations Board and we don’t see it as an apology; we just see it as not being really genuine.”

UNITE HERE said the letter came nearly a month after a Sept. 27 Labour Board decision in which the Novotel Hotel in Mississauga was found to have engaged in “illegal activity” in its efforts to quash unionization efforts there.  The board ordered automatic union certification for workers in that location.

Segat said there will be a boycott at Novotel Hotels in Ontario this week “to show the workers that there is support for them from other people outside of the company.”

Calls to Novotel Ottawa were not returned.

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