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Analysis

Niagara’s ‘Ethical’ Rainforest Café Claws-back Tips, Attacks Unions, Workers Say

The employer wants you to know 'scab' is a 'derogatory term'

April 18, 2019

The Rainforest Café is sometimes branded as being “as ethical as it is appealing,” but some workers tell a different story.

After Ontario’s minimum wage rose, in January 2018, The Standard reported, the owners of the Clifton Hill restaurant, responded by raising tip-outs from 3.5-4.5% of sales and taxes.

Workers United Canada spokesperson, Ryan Hayes, told PressProgress further “salaried managers were added to the tip-out pool, effectively forcing these workers to subsidize their employer’s payroll costs.”

That claw-back prompted workers to unionize with Workers United in late March 2018.

Union representative Mike Ward told PressProgress, after workers voted to certify, the employer demanded a revote. When that didn’t work, it fired a worker on the bargaining team, he said, for cellphone use. He said that was subsequently appealed and the worker’s job was restored.

The union also alleged the employer stalled negotiations to make a decertification vote possible (the law allows for a decertification vote, one year on) and worked to win precarious recently-hired workers’ favour towards that end.

However, Sarah V. Vazquez vice-president of marketing and business development for the employer, Canadian Niagara Hotels, told PressProgress “Only the staff can decertify. Both the Union and the Restaurant were aware in March that some staff wanted to decertify the Union.”

Additionally, Ward noted the restaurant has stayed open, with a few recently ‘hired-up’ workers, as scabs.

Asked about that, Vazquez told PressProgress “Scab labour is a derogatory term.”

However, asked about the ethics of playing low-wage workers against each other, Vazquez said “The Rainforest’s ethical decision is to let each staff member make their own decision as to work or go on strike. Its unethical and illegal to expect it can make this decision for each individual employee.”

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Analysis

Ford’s ‘catastrophic’ legal aid cuts target refugees and immigrants

And may violate human rights norms

April 16, 2019

Advocates and experts say changes to Legal Aid support for immigration and refugee claimants puts more vulnerable people at risk and could violate human rights law.

Canadian Press reported Legal Aid Ontario’s CEO said, in the memo issued Monday: “The province has told the agency it can only use federal funding to cover new immigration and refugee services this year.”

Erin Simpson, chair the Advocacy Committee with the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, described the cuts as “catastrophic,”…