VICTORIA -- Laid-off hotel workers started a hunger strike on the front lawn of the B.C. legislature Monday, trying desperately to get the government’s attention.

As many as 50,000 hotel workers in the province have been laid off during the pandemic.

Some worry they may not get their jobs back, even when the economy recovers, and that their positions will go to newer, cheaper replacement workers.

"These jobs are there waiting for the people who have worked them for years and decades,” said Zailda Chan, president of the hotel worker's Local 40 chapter.

On Monday, B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains called the hotel industry the hardest hit of any, and said no measures are being ruled out, including writing new legislation to protect jobs.

For the moment, the government has hired a labour lawyer to look for solutions and report back.

Meanwhile, the hotel industry continues to face a bleak landscape.

Although occupancy rates in Victoria have increased since last month, they remain dramatically lower than usual, according to Bill Lewis, the head of the Greater Victoria Hotel Association.

“[We have] an occupancy of 20 to 30 per cent – we’d normally be dealing with occupancies in the 90 per cent range – so we are 60 per cent down, revenues are down even further than that, more like 75 per cent year over year,” said Lewis.

Approximately 30 people are participating in the hunger strike at the legislature, some of whom plan to forgo food for a day, others for 10 days or longer.