• published CBC News: Closing Ontario's wage gap in Media 2018-06-19 15:24:22 -0400

    CBC News: Closing Ontario's wage gap

    By Matt Galloway

    The province's proposed bill aimed at closing the wage gap does it by ending the secrecy around wages. Among other changes, the proposed bill would require job postings to include salary ranges. Navi Aujla, who's worked a lot of factory jobs and encountered the culture of secrecy around wages, speaks about her experience. We also hear from labour lawyer Fay Faraday.

    Listen to CBC Story

  • CBC News: Premier Kathleen Wynne's new pay transparency bill slammed as 'timid'

    By Kate McGillivray

    Equal Pay Coalition co-chair says new legislation only covers ‘tiny proportion’ of the labour market

    Women who have spent years advocating to close the pay gap between male and female workers say that a new piece of legislation unveiled by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Tuesday doesn't go far enough.

    If passed, the legislation would eventually require all employers with 250 workers or more to come clean with their employees and with the province about how much they pay, along with a number of other measures designed to close the wage gap between women and men. 

    But Fay Faraday, a lawyer who co-chairs the Equal Pay Coalition, says the bill will only apply to a "tiny proportion of the labour market" and leave the rest of female workers in the dark about how much their male counterparts are earning.

    "Here in Ontario, the government's own statistics show that as of December 2015, 98 per cent of employers in Ontario have 49 or less employees," she told CBC Toronto, calling the bill a "timid approach" to a thorny issue.

    She said she wants to see all employers with 10 or more employees included in the new rules

    Compounded by the number of women who work part-time and in traditionally "female" fields that are poorly remunerated, women earn about 30 per cent less than men, according to the province — a gap that has remained stagnant for the last decade.

    'It feels very unfair'

    As a temp who did general labour in smaller factories and warehouses in the GTA, Navi Aujla spent years in workplaces that wouldn't be required to follow the new transparency rules.

    She said during that time, she never knew if she was earning anything close to what her male co-workers were.

    "Not knowing is very disheartening and it feels very unfair," she said. "It was a common practice not to talk about [wages]. People were getting paid all sorts of different rates."

    At present, non-unionized workers can be "disciplined or even terminated" for talking about their pay, said Faraday —something the new bill would prohibit.

    Aujla, who now works as an organizer at the Worker's Action Centre, called the bill a "step in the right direction" but said she would like to see the legislation extend to "all workplaces."

    Leaving out marginalized women?

    Beyond the sheer number of women who are employed at smaller workplaces, including smaller workplaces also matters because of the kind of women who work there, said Colette Prevost, director of advocacy and communications at YWCA Toronto.

    Women who are Indigenous, racialized, or new to Canada tend to work in smaller businesses, as do women in smaller communities with less employment options, she said.

    "They're working in retail, they're working in restaurants, they're working in the social service sector," said Prevost.

    Faraday also points out that Indigenous, racialized, and disabled women face even steeper wage gaps with men. In the case of Indigenous women, the pay gap is 57 per cent, she said. 

    "[The pay gap] is something that's compounded by all other forms of systemic discrimination in our society," said Faraday. 

    Employers are already legally required to deliver non-discriminatory pay and have been for decades, she pointed out, arguing that any employer of any size should be able to prove that they pay based on experience and ability, not gender. 

    "Time's up, employers. You've had five decades to get your house in order. Prove that you're compliant with the law," she said. 

    Read the CBC Story

  • Toronto Star: Workplace rights queries soar after minimum wage hike

    By Sara Mojtehedzadeh

    Calls to the Ministry of Labour’s employment standards hotline have soared following sweeping updates to the province’s workplace laws that took effect Jan. 1.

    The provincial information centre fielded 26,704 calls from workers with queries about their rights or potential abuses in January of this year, up 60 per cent from 16,742 the previous month, the Star has learned. The volume of enquiries is almost 30 per cent higher than January 2017.

    Bill 148 included significant changes to the province’s employment laws, raising the minimum wage by $2.60 to $14 an hour, introducing two paid emergency leave days, and mandating equal pay for temporary help agency, casual, and part-time employees. It also committed to doubling the ministry’s complement of employment standards enforcement officers.

    Following the changes, some employers moved to offset the increased labour costs by eliminating paid breaks or increasing workers’ contributions for benefits — most notably at Tim Hortons restaurants in Cobourg owned by Jeri Horton-Joyce and Ron Joyce Jr., the children of the chain’s founders.

    As previously reported by the Star, workers at the Markham and Lawrence location in Scarborough were told they could no longer accept tips or have paid breaks.

    “I’m heartened that people are calling in because that means they are engaged and aware about the changes and feel a sense of empowerment. I think that’s fantastic,” said Pam Frache, provincial co-ordinator of the Fight for $15 & Fairness movement that pushed for many of the changes contained in Bill 148.

    “It also shows that employers are either unaware or are not implementing the changes.”

    The province’s new emergency leave provisions appeared to represent the most significant jump in worker calls, according to the ministry data requested by the Star. The hotline received around 420 calls on the subject in January 2017, but received almost 2,400 this January. Minimum-wage queries also more than doubled from 345 to 819.

    Other common issues included termination, vacation, and public holiday pay, the data shows.

    “To my mind what this reflects is probably a lot more in terms of enforcement, a lot more in terms of educating employers, but also we probably need a lot more in terms of a legislative agenda now that we’re getting a sense of the wiggle room,” said Frache.

    As part of its workplace updates, the Ministry of Labour is doubling is complement of employment standards officers, hiring 175 more inspectors and bumping up its capacity to proactively inspect up to 10 per cent of the province’s workplaces.

    Enforcement was a key issue raised in an extensive government-commissioned report on workplace conditions in Ontario, which noted that the province faced “serious” and extensive problems enforcing basic employment rights.

    Last year, the government’s rate of recovery when individual workers filed claims for stolen wages and other entitlements was around one-third, according to data obtained by the Star through a Freedom of Information request. Since 2013, this low recovery rate has resulted in some $38 million in missing wages for workers.

    The recovery rate for proactive inspections was almost 100 per cent.

    “Unfortunately, it appears some employers are abandoning the spirit of this legislation and some may even be doing more than that,” Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said following reports of employers scaling back entitlements in response to the province-wide wage hike.

    But Frache said many small employers have embraced the changes.

    “The opposition tends to come from the large corporations that rely most heavily on minimum-wage workers and, ironically, those are some of the most profitable entities.

    “The contextual piece is to remember that most small businesses already pay above minimum wage because they rely on a stable workforce. They simply can’t cope with high turnover,” she added.

    “Millions of workers are benefiting from these changes, it’s just too bad there’s a few high profile bad apples.”

    With files from Robert Benzie

    Read the Toronto Star Story

  • published Brampton Guardian: Re: Flora column on minimum wage in Media 2018-06-19 14:59:30 -0400

    Brampton Guardian: Re: Flora column on minimum wage


    Regardless of what you think about Wynne, the minimum wage increase was long overdue and the tactics used by Tim Hortons are inexcusable forms of bullying.

    Flora writes, “That’s what businesses need to do to stay in business,” but that’s a lie.

    Most businesses that are employing minimum wage workers in Ontario are big businesses. Many of them, like Tim Hortons, are raking in billions of dollars in profits. The CEO of Tim Hortons’ parent company, RBI, made $8,183,504 last year and Tim Hortons generated $3 billion US in revenue for RBI.

    To own a Tim Hortons, any potential franchise owner needs a net worth of at least $1.5 million. Meanwhile, when minimum wage workers were working full-time last year, they were still living below the poverty line.

    Flora also writes, “she increases the minimum wage just so people can pay more for their bread?”

    In case Flora hasn’t noticed, prices have been going up ridiculously even when the minimum wage was frozen for 12 of the last 20 years. Workers in Ontario haven’t been able to keep up and they are the engines of this economy.

    So I say Tim Hortons is a bully.

    Navi Aujla

    Read the Brampton Guardian Story 

  • Huff Post: 'Roll Up The Rim' Mocked On Social Media Amid Tim Hortons Wage Controversy

    By Daniel Tencer

    "They have a brand that is in trouble."

    Every year, Tim Hortons' Roll up the Rim contest results in some happy winners, and a whole bunch of disappointed customers holding "please play again" cups.

    This year is no different, but with the coffee-and-doughnut chain embroiled in controversy over its response to minimum wage hikes, some customers are taking the chance to criticize Timmies over its treatment of employees.

    Tim Hortons' announcement of this year's Roll Up The Rim — which started on Feb. 7 — was met with some pointed questions online.

    "Have you ensured Ontario workers in your franchises aren't stripped of benefits yet?" one Twitter user asked.

    Many others have taken the opportunity to criticize the popular brand.

    The controversy began last month, when news reports began to emerge that some Tim Hortons franchisees  including the children of the chain's co-founders  were rolling back paid breaks and dental and medical benefits for their employees.

    The move came in the wake of Ontario's minimum wage rising to $14 per hour at the beginning of January, a move broadly opposed by the restaurant industry. The province's minimum wage is set to rise again, to $15 an hour, next year.

    Head office sought to distance itself from the controversy, publicly criticizing franchisees who rolled back paid breaks and benefits. But labour activists say the company has not taken further action to prevent franchisees from making those moves.

    It's too early to tell whether the controversy will harm Tim Hortons' bottom line. But what is clear is that the brand was already facing headwinds even before the minimum wage hikes.

    Parent company Restaurant Brands International reported this week that sales have flatlined at comparable Tim Hortons outlets (meaning those that have been open for more than a year). Sales fell 0.1 per cent in 2017, and have been flat or falling for five consecutive quarters.

    "They have a brand that is in trouble," Mark Satov, strategy advisor at Satov Consultants told BNN last week. "They have a lot of negative press."

    Some analysts take a more optimistic view. Peter Sklar of BMO Capital Markets predicted in a client note last month that the "negative publicity should die down in the coming weeks."

    But so far, the public pressure remains on Tim Hortons. This week, labour activists, including the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Fight For $15 and Fairness campaign, sent Valentine's cards to workers at more than 200 locations, to show that the public "values and supports" them.

    Read the Huffington Post Story

  • Global News: Tim Hortons workers in Ontario given Valentine’s Day cards in support of labour rights

    By David Shum

    Tim Hortons employees at over 200 locations across Ontario received special Valentine’s Day cards and chocolates from workers’ rights advocates on Tuesday in a show of support for improved working conditions.

    The action comes after several franchises slashed workers’ benefits and breaks after the province raised its minimum wage on Jan. 1.

    “I think it’s shameful that the corporation has responded to the minimum wage increase by cutting meal breaks, by making workers start to pay for uniforms, by cutting hours and by taking away tips,” Deena Ladd of the Workers’ Action Centre told Global News at a Tim Hortons location in downtown Toronto Tuesday morning.

    Over the past month and a half, protests have been held across the province in response to some Tim Hortons locations that have clawed back workers benefits, paid breaks and other perks as a result of the minimum wage increase in Ontario to $14 an hour from $11.60.

    “Whether the workers belong to a union or not, they deserve to have respect and dignity in their workplace,” said Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.

    “We’re going to caution these bad bosses to get their hands out of the workers’ pockets, pay them accordingly, treat them with respect and dignity or we’re coming after them as well.”

    The protests began after Jeri Horton-Joyce and Ron Joyce Jr., the children of the brand’s billionaire co-founder Ron Joyce, rolled out the controversial measures at two Cobourg, Ont., locations they own.

    Chocolates were handed out to Tim Hortons employees in Toronto on Feb. 13, 2018.


    Chocolates were handed out to Tim Hortons employees in Toronto on Feb. 13, 2018.

    A letter handed out to staff last month cited the rising cost of the minimum wage as the contributing factor to the cuts.

    “These changes are due to the increase of wages to $14.00 minimum wage on January 1, 2018, then $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2019, as well as the lack of assistance and financial help from our Head Office and from the Government,” the letter states.

    The letter also states that health and dental benefits, which used to be covered 100 per cent, will be reduced to only 50 per cent coverage for employees that have worked there longer than five years, and less for those who haven’t.

    A statement issued by Tim Hortons’ corporate head office last month said the “reckless” actions were taken “rogue group” of restaurant owners who “do not reflect the values of our brand.”

    In numbers released last week, Ontario shed around 59,300 part-time jobs in January – the same month the province hiked the minimum wage, but experts say it may be too soon to know if the two are correlated.

    —With a file from Paul Soucy and The Canadian Press

    Read the Global News Story


  • Global News: Kingston employers honoured for paying workers ‘living wage,’ while rallies continue over Tim Hortons’ cuts

    By Nikki Jhutti

    Tim Hortons locations were the focus of more rallies in Kingston on Tuesday. Tim Hortons locations were the focus of more rallies in Kingston on Tuesday, while other local employers were honoured for paying their workers a living wage.

    Kingston and District Labour Council hosted a pre-Valentine’s protest and handed out valentines for Tim Hortons’ workers.

    The rally was held in response to the chain’s recent cuts to employee’s hours and benefits.

    “To let them know that we support them in spite of the cuts that a lot of Tim Hortons workers have been seeing,” said Lesley Jamieson with the Kingston and District Labour Council. “You know, one of the largest public sector employers in Kingston has been cutting paid breaks, has been reducing full-time hours from 40 to 32 hours.”

    Across town, it was a different story. Living Wage Kingston honoured four local employers for their commitments to pay their employees a living wage or higher. The organization says according to their calculations, the living wage in Kingston is $16.58 an hour — that’s based on a family of four with two working parents.

    “On Jan. 1, you know the minimum wage went up enough to get people to the poverty line and you know certain employers have unfortunately taken steps to put people back below it again,” said Cam Jay, co-chair of Living Wage Kingston. “Forty per cent of the working people in this town make less than $30,000 a year.”

    The organization honoured Kingston Community Health Centres, Loving Spoonful, Open Door Media and Kingston Municipal Non-Profit Housing Corporation with living-wage certificates.

    Open Door Media has only been around for three-and-a-half years but CEO Ben Bowen knew right away he needed to pay more to attract the right employees.

    “You either manage your expenses to the bottom which is paying your people as low as possible, minimum wage would obviously be that basement, or you go out and get the best people and the best people are not cheap,” said Bowen.

    Loving Spoonful has been paying a living wage for the last three years and executive director Mara Shaw says staff are sticking around because of it.

    “I can tell you that no one has quit since we’ve done that, you know people aren’t leaving so we have no staff turnover, we’ve got really highly-engaged staff that are sticking around,” said Shaw.

    Kingston Community Health Centre employs about 175 people. Three months ago, officials there decided to bump staff to a living wage. CEO Mike Bell says it makes business sense to think about employees.

    “It is a movement and I think it’s gaining energy and other organizations are starting to note that it’s just the right thing to do. We acknowledge that it’s not as easy for every business to do something like this but for those who can and are putting more thought toward it, it’s just wonderful for Kingston,” said Bell.

    And while Living Wage Kingston honours those employers who go above and beyond for their staff, the Kingston and District Labour Council says it will continue to fight for better wages and working conditions for all.

    Read the Global News Story

  • published OMNI TV: 咖啡连锁店勞工献爱心 in Media 2018-06-19 14:31:54 -0400

    OMNI TV: 咖啡连锁店勞工献爱心

    安省劳工团体在全省 30 个市镇,组织了向 Tim Hortons 咖啡连锁店员工献爱心卡和巧克力的活动,同时也抗议部分雇主, 因为安省提高最低工资,而削减员工工作时间及福利的做法。杨捷的报道。

    Watch the OMNI Story

  • Toronto Star: Ontario campuses see increase in precarious jobs, study shows

    By Sara Mojtehedzadeh

    More than half of all campus jobs have at least one indicator of precarity, a new report says, with temporary roles steadily on the rise over the past two decades and more employees juggling multiple jobs.

    The study released Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that while temporary workers accounted for 26 per cent of the college and university workforce in 1998, they made up 38 per cent in 2016. The proportion of temporary employees holding more than one job also increased from 2 per cent to almost 6 per cent over the same time period.

    Nadine Sookermany has been part-time faculty at George Brown College for almost 12 years, juggling it with a job in the not-for-profit sector.

    Nadine Sookermany has been part-time faculty at George Brown College for almost 12 years, juggling it with a job in the not-for-profit sector.  (EDUARDO LIMA / METRO FILE PHOTO)

    “The data demonstrates that there are shifts happening,” said Erika Shaker, the CCPA’s director of education and outreach.

    “There was a lot of concerns raised about the impact it’s actually having on students too. We’re looking at working conditions, but those working conditions are also learning conditions.”

    Using data from the Labour Force Survey, the report assessed what it called three indicators of precarity in campus roles: temporary workers, multiple job holders, and unpaid work. Around 53 per cent of post-secondary employees now experience at least one of those indicators, the study said.

    The proportion of those who experience none of those indicators has dropped from a high of 58 per cent in 1999 to 47 per cent in 2016. While the share of workers with just one element of job insecurity has remained stable at around 40 per cent, the share experiencing two of the indicators has almost tripled from 5 per cent to 14 per cent.

    The report also solicited input from campus staff, some of whom described being unable to raise their students’ concerns or safety issues with their employer for fear of losing work, financial insecurity, and mental health issues.

    Nadine Sookermany has been part-time faculty at George Brown College for almost 12 years, juggling it with a job in the not-for-profit sector and as a single mother.

    “Teaching was my bread and butter. It was good pay. It made a big difference in terms of whether I could pay rent or not,” she said. “So the obvious choice was to try and secure full-time employment.”

    But those opportunities, she found, are increasingly rare. Instead, she is left wondering anew each semester how many courses she will get to teach and what contracts will be available. Ultimately, she decided to take a full-time role as the head of a small non-profit — a role that could also evaporate if the organization does not get core funding.

    “It reflects the systemic issues that exist in our society that people … are sometimes afraid to talk about as well for fear of being targeted or excluded,” she said, adding groups like women and people of colour are disproportionally impacted.

    The issue provided significant impetus for last year’s five-week long strike by Ontario college faculty, which was ultimately ended by back-to-work legislation passed by the provincial government.

    The CCPA study looked at all job categories on campus, from academic instructors to student services and plant operations. It found that full-time university professors as a proportion of the campus workforce crept down from a high of around 20 per cent in 1999 to 15 per cent in 2016. Overall, according to the study, traditionally stable jobs like librarian roles have dwindled while research and teaching assistant positions, which are more likely to be temporary or part-time by design, are on the rise.

    The growth in research and teaching assistants outpaced university enrolment, indicating that “perhaps work that might have been performed by another category of employee is being shifted to a job category that is already inherently less stable,” the study said.

    Temporary workers are increasingly likely to work part-time and to work unpaid overtime, which Shaker said may be partly driven by the increase in more precarious job categories like TAs.

    “There’s sort of a stacking effect, or compounding effect,” she said.

    “I think it does raise issues of how we ensure that we are not reproducing vulnerabilities and we’re not creating a workforce that is literally contingent on people who can’t afford to say no,” she added.

    Not all job categories on campus are experiencing a rise in precarity: the majority of student service, administrative, and plant operations workers are still full time and have remained a stable proportion of the workforce. Overall, the report says, job insecurity on campus is “on the rise, though not equally and not for everyone.”

    The report notes that student fees, rather than public sources, make up an increasingly large part of funding for post-secondary institutions.

    “Public funding has not kept pace with enrolment,” Shaker said. “And we are looking at institutions that are to some extent pursuing a low-wage business model. What that doesn’t factor in is the human cost and ultimately the cost on the education that these institutions are providing.”

    “These public institutions are in a very influential position to actually take a leadership role and push for the change we need,” she added. “Because we know that precarity is not a healthy way to build communities.”

    Read the Toronto Star Story.

  • America Magazine: Minimum-wage win: grassroots campaign in Ontario scores increase

    By Dean Dettloff

    On Jan. 1, 1.1 million low-wage workers in Ontario greeted 2018 with the promise of a better paycheck. As part of Bill 168, passed by Ontario’s governing Liberal Party, the province’s minimum wage jumped from $11.60 (CAD) to $14 per hour, and it will rise again to $15 in 2019. The increase comes after a significant push by workers and activists, especially those in the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign, a diverse coalition including labor advocates, unionized and non-unionized workers, and faith communities.

    It will come as no surprise that Canadian economists are divided on the benefits of raising the minimum wage, but proponents say the hike is desperately needed following decades of wage stagnation that has led many Canadians to take on significant debt.

    The success of the minimum-wage campaign came largely from grassroots organizing, says Deena Ladd, coordinator of the Workers’ Action Centre, which functions as an organizing hub. “The highlight has been supporting different groups to come forward and find their place in the movement,” says Ms. Ladd. “It was really interesting to see how the campaign was able to, instead of being restrictive, facilitate people’s ability to organize around what they felt comfortable doing.”

    Among those different groups was a coalition of faith leaders who signed a statement supporting the wage increase and a number of other labor reforms, some of which also made it into Bill 168. Ms. Ladd says the faith community was mobilized when organizers in training with the Workers’ Action Centre began to think about how to expand the fight to their own personal networks.

    “I would say probably 60 percent of [trainees] were part of faith communities,” says Ms. Ladd. “They went to their local mosques or churches or otherwise, and more than just listening and telling people about the campaign, they asked their faith leaders if they would support it and put on workshops.” To see a multifaith community come together with workers in health care, transportation, food service and other industries was unique and exciting, Ms. Ladd says, and helped galvanize the movement.

    A report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a research group that has been studying income inequality, says if the minimum wage had been $15 at the beginning of 2017, it would have meant a raise for 23 percent of Ontario’s population, including 27 percent of women and 19 percent of men in Ontario. The report says an increased minimum wage in the province will especially benefit immigrants, indigenous and other low-income workers.

    Of course, the wage hike has not been welcomed by everyone. A number of businesses have started to eliminate benefits previously granted to low-wage workers, most notably the popular fast food chain Tim Hortons in response. Reports of Tim Hortons franchisees rolling back paid breaks and prohibiting employees from accepting tips led to protests in Ontario and across Canada throughout January.

    Despite the province providing a tax cut to small businesses to offset the effects of the wage, some have described the increase as a “small-business killer,” as well as the cause of price increases at some businesses.

    Not all small-business owners feel the same way about the minimum wage increase, however. “I think it’s awesome. Every employee deserves to make an amount that is livable, and $11.60 just isn’t, especially in Toronto,” says Chris Watton, who opened The Sidekick, an independent comic book store and cafe in East Toronto, almost three years ago. “I’m happy that more people will make an amount that helps them pay their rent. I was also working for minimum wage not so long ago, and I remember what it’s like.”

    Starting a niche business in a city increasingly known for high rent and a high cost of living is daunting, but The Sidekick has become a neighborhood staple, and though it means payroll expenses will go up, Ms. Watton is unfazed by the change.

    “It looks really bad if you’re a small-business owner and you’re telling your employees they’re not worth $15 an hour,” says Ms. Watton. “I think big businesses don’t really have an excuse. To say the person who makes it possible for that business to be open by working there every day is not worth a living wage should be an embarrassment.”

    Ms. Ladd agrees, adding that the backlash has exposed the greed of major corporations and what she calls a double standard regarding income inequality. Though public conversations about raising the minimum wage stir up fears of price increases and closures, Ms. Ladd says, “people don’t ask the same questions when they hear a C.E.O. is making $8 million. ‘They must deserve that.’ But a poor person making $14 an hour, God forbid, they should have a paid meal break, 15 minutes where they’re paid $6.”

    While some businesses have aggressively opposed the change, a Forum Research poll said two-thirds of Ontarians support the wage increase. With the eventual goal of $15 per hour, Ontario joins Alberta, which passed legislation to raise its minimum wage to the same level, effective in October of this year. The two provinces will have the highest minimum wage in Canada.

    Bill 168 is a major victory for workers and the Fight for $15 and Fairness, but Ms. Ladd says the fight is far from over. Now, she says, organizers are focusing on informing workers about their new rights they have and about how to protect them moving forward.

    On June 7, Ontario will hold provincial elections, and the Canada’s major parties are already weaving Bill 168 into their campaign narratives. The Progressive Conservative Party says it would delay the wage increase until 2022, while the New Democratic Party is critical of what it suggests is opportunism behind the Liberal Party’s support for the raise. The incumbent Liberal Party is touting Bill 168 as a matter of moral responsibility, and the policy is popular with voters who only last year gave Kathleen Wynne, the Liberal Ontario Premier, a mere 12 percent approval rating.

    Referring to political opponents, Ms. Ladd says, “We want their hands off the gains people have made. We have to effectively take the backlash [from the business community] on and build people’s confidence that this is the way to go, that the low-wage alternative is not good for us.”

    While the Fight for $15 and Fairness turns to defending its wins, Ms. Watton looks forward to growing her small business to provide better wages for her employees. “I’m very lucky that good people apply and don’t leave. I’m pretty stoked about my staff. If I could afford to pay them what they’re really worth I would, and that’s the goal.”

    Read the America Magazine Story.

  • CBC News: Restaurants 'taking from Peter to pay Paul' amid minimum wage hike

    By Jenny Cowley and Nelisha Vellani

    Higher percentage of servers' tips being shared amongst other staff

    A number of popular Canadian restaurants have increased the amount of tips servers must share with their colleagues, CBC's Marketplace has learned. And many servers say that money is being doled out to higher-paid staff in lieu of a raise.

    "Tipping out" is a common practice in which servers pay into a pool that managers then distribute to non-tip-receiving staff such as hostesses, bussers and kitchen workers.

    As businesses grapple with increases to minimum wage, some have cut employee hours, reduced benefits or found other ways to offset increased costs.

    In a hidden microphone investigation, Marketplace visited seven randomly selected restaurant chains that had raised servers' tip out percentages since Ontario's minimum wage went from $11.60 to $14 on Jan. 1 (those who serve liquor in licensed establishments saw their minimum hourly wage rise from $10.10 to $12.20).

    Many large family dining chains calculate tip out as a percentage — typically between two and five per cent — of each server's total food and beverage sales each shift. If 10 tables each spend $100, the server's tip out could be between $20 and $50.

    Apart from Quebec, which does not allow restaurant owners to enforce tip sharing, there are no federal or provincial regulations governing tip out amounts.

    Most of the restaurant locations Marketplace visited had bumped the tip out by one percentage point.

    For instance, The Keg went from four to five per cent. East Side Mario's from 2.5 to 3.5 per cent.

    Earls, a chain with 56 locations across Canada, increased its tip out by 0.5 percentage points, but it had the highest total tip out, at 5.5 per cent.

    An employee at Moxie's, which has 66 locations, told Marketplace their tip out was expected to increase to 5.75 per cent, from 4.75.

    Servers 'aren't happy'

    Ontario and Alberta will both have a $15 minimum wage by this time next year, and in several other provinces, the minimum wage increases each year on a certain date. With those increases, there is pressure on some restaurateurs to also give a salary hike to higher-paid workers, often as an incentive to keep reliable and valuable staff.

    "We, the servers, have to pick up the slack," said one employee at a Keg location. "The servers aren't happy about it, but there's nothing we can do."

    A server at a popular family dining chain in Alberta says it isn't fair to supplement the higher-paid workers' wages with those of lower-paid ones.

    "I am a little frustrated," said Grace Ford. "There's days where I worked 12 hours, and I still give out $80 of my tips that I've worked all day for to people who sometimes mess up [customers'] food … a customer gets mad, it's me who in the long run suffers from it.

    "There's money taken out of my pocket that I worked so hard for, and it just disappears and goes to other people who already make more money than I do."

    Out of pocket

    In statements to Marketplace, the Ontario Ministry of Labour said, "Tip pool money (including tip outs) can only come from an employee's tips or other gratuities, not from any other source."

    But tip outs must still be paid when servers don't get tipped, or earn less in tips than what they would have to contribute.

    In a restaurant with a five per cent tip-out policy, a server still has to tip out $5 on every $100 tab.

    Some employees Marketplace spoke to said they've sometimes had to pay out of their own pockets to make their tip-out contribution.

    At one Moxie's location a server told CBC, "The amount of times I've … pretty much had to give the restaurant money out of my pocket, it's a lot."

    A server at a Montana's said, "There [were] times that I had a party of 12 … they didn't tip me because they were upset with the food that they got, nothing to do with my service. And I actually paid to come to work."

    Restaurants respond

    "Employers are feeling very confident to be able to start changing the tip pool and how it's distributed amongst the staff," says Deena Ladd, a workers' rights advocate.

    "And I would say to employers that, you know, part of you running your restaurant is based on customer satisfaction. Do you really want your customers knowing how you're treating your workers?"

    She says restaurant owners should be creating a tip pool that is not "taking it out on servers" and that all the employees feel is fair.

    In a statement, Earls told Marketplace, "Our people are our greatest asset, and our priority has always been to make sure all roles contributing to the service experience are fairly compensated." 

    Moxie's said it is confident that all of its policies are lawful and fair.

    Sunset Grill referred Marketplace to a CBC story last month that reported the increase in tip outs was made to "bridge the unfair pay equity gap for all non-serving staff."

    The Keg, East Side Mario's, Kelsey's and Montana's did not respond to requests for comment.

    Restaurants Canada, the group representing the industry, said in a statement, "Tip-pools and tip outs are a way to recognize the efforts of the entire team — from the server to the kitchen staff to the hosts and the bussers."

    The group would not publicly disclose its member restaurants. Earls told CBC the organization's statement accurately reflects its point of view.

    'Find other ways'

    Ford says it's wrong to take more from servers.

    "They should stop raising the money that's coming out of my pocket and find other ways to give them higher wages — or increase food prices even," she said.

    An Ottawa restaurateur also disagrees with hiking tip outs for servers.

    "We felt that some of the models that we're seeing elsewhere is a bit of robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Ivan Getz, owner and manager of Union Local 613. "When we make decisions here, my staff know exactly how much money I make. When we make strategic decisions, they're involved in that process."

    His solution? Shaving dollars off his profits and slight increases to menu prices.

    "The customer wouldn't even notice it."

    Read the CBC News Story.

  • Defending minimum wage victories from big business backlash

    By Scott Neigh

    Pam Frache is the Ontario coordinator of the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign, which has won major victories around minimum wage increases and reforms to labour law in 2017. And this year, with a provincial election looming, they are facing a major backlash from big business. Frache talks with Scott Neigh about the overall trajectory of the campaign, about the backlash, and about fighting to defend what they won last year.

    It is generally true that when social movements or communities-in-struggle win something, that is rarely the end of the story. Whatever powerful interests have been beaten back to win gains for ordinary people tend to retreat temporarily, regroup, and then come back all the fiercer for having been shown to be vulnerable. Movements must then figure out how to defend their gains and, even better, figure out how to embed what they have won in the political landscape such that rolling it back is no longer feasible.

    The Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign in Ontario is a good example. Though minimum wage struggles have a much longer history in the province, the current campaign began in 2013 in an intiative spearheaded by the Workers Action Centre in Toronto. There was little movement infrastructure to start with, but in the years since, a province-wide network of workers, community groups, unions, anti-poverty organizations, workers centres, faith groups, health providers, and labour councils has taken shape and, in several stages, pushed forward an ambitious agenda.

    In 2017, in the face of growing pressure from this movement, the Liberal provincial government of Premier Kathleen Wynne introduced and ultimately passed legislation making sweeping changes to employment standards. Though the labour law reforms still leave much room for improvement, they are, according to Frache, an "extraordinary start" in terms of improving the lives of low-wage and precarious workers. And despite their earlier insistence that they would not do so, the Liberals ended up giving in to the wage demands too -- the minimum wage went from $11.60/hr to $14/hr as of January 1, 2018, and it is scheduled to go up to $15/hr on January 1, 2019.

    While the legislation was being debated, there was no shortage of opposition from corporate interests. And since the minimum wage hike took effect at the beginning of the year, the reaction from the business lobby has been loud and fierce. While it has largely been framed as a defence of small business, actual small business owners seem to be taking a range of positions on the issue, while large corporations and institutions beholden to them drive the backlash. With a provincial election scheduled for June 7, 2018, the big business lobby seems keen to elect a government that will roll back the recent gains by low-wage workers.

    Resistance to this big business backlash has been widespread and spirited. Some of it has been spontaneous – for instance, in various cities instances have come to light of businesses retaliating against workers who benefit from the minimum wage hike by clawing back various kinds of perqs and benefits, and in many cases there have been spontaneous local campaigns to shame the businsesses into relenting.

    The Fight for $15 and Fairness itself has been doing a number of things to defend the recent gains and to make them harder for any future government to roll back. An important piece of that is doing trainings in a wide range of contexts, particularly with people who do frontline work related to employment, to make sure that as many people as possible know how the new legislation benefits them, and to get as many people as possible accessing the benefits and rights to which they are now entitled. Another piece involves countering scaremongering by the big business lobby by circulating solid research on the actual likely impacts of the minimum wage hike.

    Of course, they are also using the movement infrastructure built over the last five years to mobilize people. In particular, they are part of the movement to defend Tim Horton's workers who have had various benefits clawed back at some franchises, despite the fact that the hard work of the mostly low-wage workers at Tim Horton's generates billions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars in profit each year for its parent company, Restaurant Brands International.

    And in terms of the provincial election, Frache said, the ultimate goal is to "build a movement so strong that no political party wants to mess with us."

    Image: Modified from an image created by Errol Young and used with the permission of the Fight for $15 and Fairness.

    Listen to the Podcast

    Read the Story.

  • Toronto Star: Why Tim Hortons’ foul play gives unions a big assist

    By Martin Regg Cohn

    There’s a missing ingredient in the battle still brewing at Tim Hortons.

    Never mind the conventional narrative of family-owned businesses versus their vulnerable employees. It has more to do with the economic power imbalance when business (big and small) wages war against minimum wage workers who aren’t organized to fight back.

    By organized, I mean unionized.

    The protective power of unions has been missing from much of the sound and fury over a bunch of Tim Hortons outlets clawing back paid breaks and tips. This isn’t about ideology but practicality.

    For the reality is that government can’t legislate against every injustice, the media can’t cover every story, and the public has a limited attention span for Timmies’ double-double troubles. We can’t count on people to protest outside every fast food franchise or supermarket that bullies its workers, or rely on Facebook “likes” as a virtual show of solidarity.

    That’s where union locals can make difference.

    When Ontario raised the minimum wage to $14 on Jan. 1, a number of Tim Hortons franchises took the path of least resistance by announcing that paid breaks would henceforth be unpaid. Lamentable yet legal — a new law required better wages, so they worsened working conditions.

    We live in a culture where everyone likes to play the victim. Heirs to the original Timmies fortune played the small family-owned business card, while Tim Hortons headquarters tried to cast them as “rogue” franchise operators, but there is plenty of guilt to go around.

    Canada’s iconic coffee shop is a franchise behemoth controlled by RBI, a monolithic multinational based in Brazil. Everyone at Tim Hortons can try stickhandling the issue after facing off against their own workers, but they still come off as cheapskates — multinational and familial.

    And they’re not alone. The T&T Supermarket chain also eliminated paid breaks just ahead of the minimum wage hike to make itself “more competitive.”

    The Loblaw-owned company ultimately backed down, as my colleague Sara Mojtehedzadeh reported this month. Perhaps the giant food conglomerate had second thoughts after Loblaw CEO Galen G. Weston first raised the spectre of “a significant set of financial headwinds” from any wage increase.

    Note that Weston didn’t dare claw back any paid breaks in its flagship Loblaw supermarkets, doubtless because they are unionized — and the United Food and Commercial Workers would have fought back hard. Unfortunately, a unionization drive at a T&T warehouse fell short a few years ago, leaving employees unprotected when push came to shove more recently.

    If employers trample on their rights, minimum wage workers have to stand up for themselves — by joining a union that can push back against companies that push the envelope on pay packets. This isn’t a polemic about the perfection of unions, merely their utility. (Full disclosure — the Toronto Star newsroom is represented by Unifor.)

    For all their faults, unions exercise vigilance on behalf of their members, even when outmuscled by powerful employers. Unions can keep a watchful eye on abuses, enable members to file grievances, and tap into the collective resources of the larger labour movement.

    It’s not just about the minimum wage.

    Sears Canada workers will see their pensions reduced after the company left their plan underfunded while paying out billions in shareholder dividends — again, lamentable yet legal. Unfortunately, major unions that could have organized tens of thousands of Sears workers across the country — and pressured the company into maintaining its pension obligations in good faith — were largely unsuccessful in the face of the company’s strong anti-union tactics.

    Even at big centralized employers like Sears or T&T, organizing drives are harder than ever. Amid widespread anti-union sentiment, many workers believe they can look out for themselves — until they can’t.

    At smaller, decentralized locations, signing up union members is even tougher. The labour movement appealed to the Ontario government to permit union certification of entire restaurant franchise chains, but the Liberals compromised with legislation allowing only commonly owned franchisee clusters to be organized as one bargaining unit.

    A missed opportunity, albeit unsurprising given the ferocious resistance from employers. The Liberals were picking their battles, calculating that a minimum wage hike and other workplace reforms would create less opposition going into an election.

    But the subsequent public outcry over the Tim Hortons controversy suggests an opportunity to go further with labour reforms. Not just by improving working conditions, but also unionization conditions that help level the playing field.

    Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday., Twitter: @reggcohn

    Read the Toronto Star Story.

  • published CBC: Women and minimum wage in Media 2018-06-19 13:36:46 -0400

    CBC: Women and minimum wage

    By Jacqueline Hansen

    Jacqueline Hansen looks at why more women than men are still at the bottom end of the income ladder

  • Financial Post: Ontario minimum wage hike having 'trickle up' effect on paycheques of higher earners

    By Aleksandra Sagan

    Many companies have bumped the hourly pay for employees who were making close to the new $14 an hour minimum

    Nick Cluley and his wife, who have always paid their Coffee Public employees more than minimum wage, have boosted everyone’s pay by $1.25 an hour since Jan. 1 — not just those earning below $14, as a new Ontario law required.

    They did that “to avoid tensions that might come from more experienced people, you know, being crunched right up against the same salary as someone that just started,” he said.

    The new starting wage is $14.75, though the staff average is closer to $15.45, he said, adding they raised prices by about 10 per cent on everything they serve in their Toronto and Port Hope, Ont., shops.

    From small mom-and-pop shops to a discount retail giant, there are already examples of companies that have bumped the hourly pay for employees who were making close to the new $14 an hour minimum — suggesting Ontario’s recent minimum wage hike is affecting more than just the lowest paid workers.

    There’s little question that a minimum wage hike in Ontario will have a “trickle up” effect to raise wages for other workers, said Bernard Wolf, a professor emeritus at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto.

    “The question is simply how much and how pervasive that is,” he said, adding it’s likely a considerable number of employers in Ontario — where the minimum wage rose to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018 — will make such a move.

    That ripple effect through the economy comes as employees who find minimum wage has now risen close to what they’re earning ask for raises to reflect their comparative skill level, Wolf said, or because their cost-of-living has increased as the price of goods goes up to offset the higher labour cost.

    For employers already making the move, they benefit from positioning themselves as the good guy compared to other companies that raised the ire of consumers for clawing back employee benefits and other perks instead, he said.

    Union Local 613 co-owner Ivan Gedz raised wages for all his kitchen staff to $16 in November, after realizing his Ottawa eatery could not only meet the new minimum in January, but surpass it.

    The raises, which amount to between 50 cents and as much as $4 per hour depending on the employee, reflect Gedz’s belief in equality and because he realized the situation presented an opportunity to be an industry leader, he said. He raised prices on some items to offset the hit to his bottom line.

    But small businesses aren’t the only ones setting a higher bar.

    Walmart Canada, which employs more than 95,000 associates, increased its starting minimum wage on Dec. 23, 2017 just ahead of the Ontario-wide hike, said spokeswoman Anika Malik, adding all the company’s associates earn more than their provincial minimum wage.

    “All pay bands also moved up accordingly to maintain appropriate relative compensation at all levels,” she said. The company isn’t cutting any roles, and employees will still be eligible for bonuses and performance increases, Malik said.

    Meanwhile, one coffee chain has applied the pay increase to more than just their Ontario-based employees.

    JJ Bean Coffee Roasters, which has more than a dozen locations across Toronto and Vancouver, first increased wages in Toronto on Dec. 17, 2017 and followed suit in Vancouver on Jan. 14, 2018, according to a letter from its senior leadership team.

    Its national starting wage is now $14 an hour, and it increased wages for all employees making below $20 hourly. The company increased prices at its cafes by one to three per cent.

    “We believe people have intrinsic value and that everyone who takes part in the journey of coffee — from farmers to baristas — deserves to be fairly rewarded for their work,” the letter reads.

    Read the Finacial Post Story.

  • Toronto Star: Tim Hortons protests sweep the nation after minimum-wage hike

    By Sara Mojtehedzadeh

    Protesters rallied across Canada calling on Tim Hortons’ franchisees and their parent company Restaurant Brands International to reverse claw-backs to workers’ benefits, tips and other entitlements — changes implemented at some Ontario locations following a $2.40- hike to the minimum wage.

    Demonstrators aimed to gather at 42 Ontario locations Friday, including 20 in Toronto. Eleven more rallies were scheduled to take place across Canada, according to organizers, who belong to the Fight-for-$15 movement, the Ontario Federation of Labour, and the independent advocacy group Lead Now.

    Protests from Vancouver to Halifax were pulled together in just four days, said Lead Now campaigner Brittany Smith, following what she describes as an outpouring of support for workers facing slashed breaks and benefits at the country’s most popular coffee chain.

    “They have a near religious brand in Canada,” Smith told the Star. “A family-friendly coffee shop for the average worker that takes cares and invests in the communities it serves. I think these punitive attacks on workers fly in the face of the values that it purports to have.”

    A crowd of around 30 protesters converged at a Tim Hortons opposite Queen’s Park on Friday afternoon, eliciting rounds of honks from passing vehicles. The rally was marshaled by healthcare providers from the Decent Work and Health Network, which testified in support of the minimum wage increase during the government’s two-year review of workplace legislation.

    “As a family physician, the impact of work on health is very clear to me. It’s something I see every day,” said Toronto-based doctor Ritika Goel, a member of the Decent Work and Health Network.

    “I have many patients who are minimum-wage workers in the fast-food industry and it’s very clear that access to paid sick days, access to benefits, access to paid breaks . . . these things all improve their mental well-being. They improve their health.”

    Ontario raised the minimum wage from $11.60 to $14 on Jan. 1. In response, some employers moved to offset the increased labour costs by eliminating paid breaks or increasing workers’ contributions for benefits, including at Tim Hortons restaurants in Cobourg owned by Jeri Horton-Joyce and Ron Joyce Jr., the children of the chain’s founders.

    As previously reported by the Star, workers at a Scarborough franchise at Markham and Lawrence were also told they could no longer accept tips or have paid breaks. Last week, labour groups circulated a statement apparently posted by owners of a Whitby franchise that encouraged workers not to vote Liberal because of the wage increase.

    Franchisees have asked RBI to increase store prices to offset the wage-hike cost, but the corporate parent has dubbed them a “rogue group,” and claimed that their actions “do not reflect the values of our brand.” RBI also says it considers its franchises to be “operated by small business owners who are responsible for handling all employment matters, including all policies for benefits and wages, for their restaurants.”

    The issue has become a flashpoint in the debate over precarious work and how best to address it.

    Sweeping labour reforms introduced by the government through Bill 148 were aimed to provide greater protections for low-wage, part-time, and temporary workers and introduced two paid sick days for all Ontarians. But some business groups expressed concern that the measures, in particular the minimum wage hike, would be prohibitively costly for companies.

    A group of 53 Canadian economists endorsed Ontario’s decision to hike the minimum wage, arguing that the bulk of academic research conducted on wage increases in other jurisdictions have not resulted in significant job losses or price increases.

    “This is not just a flash-in-the-pan action,” Deena Ladd of the Worker’s Action Centre at Friday’s protest. “This actually a deeper issue of people really supporting the minimum wage and supporting better rights and working conditions.”

    Ladd said the Tim Hortons’ backlash pointed to the need for further action, such as enacting protections in Ontario employment law for “concerted activity,” and against unjust dismissal. (“Concerted activity” is a term used to describe groups of employees coming together, with or without a union, to improve pay and working conditions.)

    According to the Great White North Franchisee Association, which represents around half of Timmies’ franchisees in Canada, the cost of implementing minimum wage hikes is $6,968 per employee. The Association said the average franchise has around 35 employees, resulting in “$243,889 a year off a franchisee’s bottom line.”

    In a letter to the organization’s chief executive officer Daniel Schwartz, Ontario Federation of Labour head Chris Buckley called on the parent company to take “immediate steps” to ensure franchise owners respect labour laws.

    “Stating your disdain for the actions of ‘rogue’ franchise owners is not enough to resolve this unfortunate situation,” the letter said.

    Total sales for Tim Hortons franchises in 2016 were $6.4 billion, according to its latest year-end report.

    Read the Toronto Star story

  • Toronto Star: What will 2018 bring for the war on wage theft?

    By Sara Mojtehedzadeh

    On a grey October morning, Paul Cheung sat in a nondescript Bay St. boardroom armed with a red polyester briefcase, facing three besuited figures: his former bosses and their lawyer.

    Cheung, a diminutive figure dressed in a neat track suit and white sneakers, was alone.

    Both sides agreed on one thing. Cheung, a personal support worker caring for the sick and disabled, was shortchanged by his employer on $84 worth of holiday pay between 2009 and 2016. But a two-year statute of limitations meant he could only recover some of his entitlements.

    So the Ministry of Labour ordered the company to pay him what they legally owed — a total of $3.97.

    Cheung knew his chances of getting the full amount were slim; the arbitrator couldn’t change the law, only apply it. Ultimately, he lost his appeal. But, he says, that wasn’t point.

    “This is not for me. It’s for my 500 coworkers,” he told the Star.

    “I wanted to voice it to the public,” he added. “It was wrong.”

    If he had an unwinnable case, it also represents something bigger: a system that has long relied on workers to come forward as individuals — often without legal support — to file and pursue complaints against better-resourced employers.

    Cheung argues the odds currently weigh heavily against them.

    “It’s a long agony,” is how he describes the complaints process.

    Ontario’s new set of labour and employment laws, Bill 148, will double the Ministry of Labour’s complement of employment standards inspectors, increasing their capacity to proactively inspect around 10 per cent of Ontario workplaces. Fines imposed on law-breaking employers will also increase.

    It’s a quiet shift, but one that statistics show matters.

    “The changing workplace raises squarely the question of whether the traditional approaches to investigation of complaints and to enforcement are sufficient,” says a final report written by two independent expert advisers to the Ministry of Labour earlier this year.

    On average, there are around 15,000 complaints made by workers for things like failure to pay wages, overtime, or holiday pay ever year. But between 2009 and 2015, one-third of unpaid wages owed to individual complainants had never been collected, a Star investigation found last year.

    While individual complaints, even when upheld by the ministry, sometimes didn’t result in workers getting the wages and entitlements they were owed — but proactive ministry investigations, which are conducted at the behest of the ministry and don’t require a worker to come forward, were far and away more successful.

    Fast forward to 2017 and things have started to change. In 2014, just eight law-breaking employers were subject to prosecutions with serious financial penalties. The figure this year is 119 — a 1,388 per cent increase.

    Nonetheless, overall trends have remained static — which is why Deena Ladd of the Toronto-based Workers’ Action Centre says 2018 needs to be the year of enforcement.

    Last year, the government’s rate of recovery when individual workers filed claims for unpaid entitlements was still around one-third, according to data obtained by the Star through a Freedom of Information request. Since 2013, this low recovery rate has resulted in some $38 million in missing wages for workers.

    The recovery rate for proactive inspections, which Bill 148 will expand, was almost 100 per cent.

    Often — as in Cheung’s case — the sum at stake is relatively small, the Star’s statistics show. Last year, for example, the overwhelming majority of claims — roughly 70 per cent — were for less than $2,500.

    For a low-wage worker, it’s still money that could mean food on the table. For Cheung, it means something bigger.

    “It’s not just about money. It’s about principle. Honesty,” he said.

    “This is hard earned money.”

    Read the Toronto Star story