Letter: Food service workers taken advantage of

While salaried managers and restaurant owners are pocketing huge profits…servers endure blatant violations of the Employment Standards Act.

To the editor:

Kelowna sunshine brings patios, wine tours, tourists, and revenues from our famous ‘foodie’ scene.

Having worked behind the scenes of our food and agricultural industry for five years, I’m compelled to expose the darker side which gets little recognition in our media.

While salaried managers and restaurant owners are pocketing huge profits from overpriced wine and food (marketed as “local,” yet unaffordable for us actual locals who are growing the food and serving it), servers (mostly female) endure blatant violations of the Employment Standards Act.

How do these reputable organizations get away with it? By telling their employees that their rights are a “grey area,” and breaking the law is simply how the food industry works.

Women who try to resist aren’t fired (that would entitle them to severance pay), they have their shifts cut down, and are pushed into corners where they’re forced to quit because they cannot live on their wage.

I have a friend who has served at a prestigious organization for four years, and her situation is appalling. $9 is the hourly rate for liquor servers, $10.25 is minimum wage for food servers. She has received $9 for years, despite not being old enough to serve alcohol.

They also deduct expenses from employees’ cheques for services they don’t even provide, and skim off their tips if they break dishes, or if customers dine and dash. This is illegal, yet it is a widespread practice most of my server friends don’t realize is wrong.

As is being refused the breaks they’re entitled to.

Even more appalling is how female servers are forced to wear heels of a certain height, and skirts of a certain shortness. They are expected to pay for these useless clothes themselves, and those who speak out are sworn at, bullied, and accused of gossiping by male managers who have no idea what it’s like to serve all night in heels and mini skirts with no breaks.

I contacted WCB to ask if this is acceptable, and they said it was a “grey area.”

I don’t pay my taxes to live in a nation of “grey areas” that facilitates such sexism.

Ladies, if these violations apply to you, please contact our local Employment Standards Branch at 250-861-7404.

If you’re a manager or owner guilty of these violations, learn your legal duties as an employer and change your practices at once. That will be far less embarrassing or painful for you than when us girls come after you, and force you to. You know who you are, and so do I.

Amanda Poon,