Province Must Crack Down On Wage Theft – AFL

Business Owner Caught on Camera Threatening to Garnish Tips

Edmonton – The province must be prepared to act quickly to crack down on bosses who steal their employees’ wages.

After a minimum wage increase came in on Thursday, October 1, allegations emerged that some restaurants might be planning to garnish tips from servers in order to recoup the cost of the increased wages. A video was aired on a television news broadcast that appears to show Murrieta’s Bar owner Ron Salverda saying “If [a higher minimum wage] comes in, you’re going to share the pain.”

“When I give my money as a tip to an employee to recognize their good service, then that money belongs to the employee. Taking it from them is theft. Plain and simple,” Alberta Federation of Labour secretary treasurer and acting president Siobhán Vipond said. “If a business can’t be profitable without stealing from staff, the problem is the business model, not the minimum wage.”

This case of wage theft is probably just the tip of the iceberg, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour.

“We’re very concerned that other unscrupulous bosses are making an end run around fair wage laws,” Vipond said. “Workers need to be vigilant about their rights. And the province should be vigilant in protecting the rights of workers, particularly those who are vulnerable.”

Vipond called on the province to conduct more proactive inspections and investigations of payroll, EI, and workplace standards because a complaint-based system favours the employer. Under the complaint-based system that Alberta currently has in place, workers often aren’t fully informed of their rights, and if they complain, face the prospect of employer retaliation.

An employee from Murrieta’s Bar has been fired due to suspicions that they were the source of the video of Salverda speaking to his staff.

“That worker showed courage in standing up for their rights. More workers should come forward if they are being exploited. We encourage them to contact the government, the AFL and the media,” Vipond said. “The government should be conducting more proactive investigations into payroll violations, wage theft, and employment standards.”

As of October 1, the minimum wage has gone up from $10.20 an hour to $11.20 an hour, while the minimum wage for liquor servers has increased from $9.20 an hour to $10.70. These changes are part of a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

“A living wage in Alberta’s big cities is in excess of $17 an hour. Anything less than that means that workers on minimum wage are below the poverty line.” Vipond said. “Business owners should not rely on keeping their hardworking employees in poverty in order to line their own pockets.”

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Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail