57253321_2273194056078809_4549767798498263040_o
57253321_2273194056078809_4549767798498263040_o This article is more than 3 years old
Analysis

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

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

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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PressProgress is an award-winning non-profit news organization focused on uncovering and unpacking the news through original investigative and explanatory journalism.

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