Editorial – Restaurants cook the books to avoid paying workers a decent wage

Tom Henihan

Why do restaurants experience unusually high rates of employee turnover? A few reasons I suspect arise from workers in the industry being poorly paid and poorly treated.

Restaurants, especially corporate franchises, generally see their employees as a necessary annoyance to which the industry resents paying a living wage.

Restaurants also tend to remind their employees constantly that they are imminently expendable, as there is an unlimited resource of workers willing to take their place.

One can imagine the lack of job satisfaction and a toxic workplace environment when a person’s employer deems them as a replaceable nonentity and treats the matter of employee’s personal circumstances, such as quality of life, paying rent, raising children, or putting themselves through university etc. as being of no consequence.

Yet, from the crass uniforms, the team member indoctrination, to the scripted interaction with customers, restaurants expect loyalty and compliance from employees, while the industry remains determined to give as little as possible to those same employees. In the corporate franchise world, loyalty is a one-side affair.

Restaurants Canada, the organization that represents the restaurant industry is launching an election time campaign here in Alberta, advocating rollbacks to minimum wage along with fighting to claw back whatever small increments that restaurant workers may have gained under the NDP.

The organization uses questionable data to support its claim that paying workers $15 an hour is having a detrimental effect on an industry where fast food alone generates revenue of over $570 billion Globally.

Of course, Jason Kenney is on side with the Restaurants Canada, saying that he is open to offering young workers less, his reasoning being that young people don’t have the same financial demands as adults.

This skewed logic, which is typical of Kenney, would create a two-tier system that would see fewer adults employed because young workers are cheaper.

Jason Kenny’s proposal to roll back minimum wage for young workers is indicative of someone whose solidarity is with corporations rather than average Alberta workers.

The restaurant industry uses ever rouse to avoid creating real jobs, preferring the structure of an underground economy supported by anonymous workers who, according to the dictum of Restaurants Canada, must not under any circumstances receive a fair and realistic wage.

And allowing the industry to offer young workers less money will have a real affect on a great many people who rely on the industry to support themselves and their families.

We tend to associate unskilled, minimum wage jobs with high school kids, but fifty percent of people earning minimum wage in Alberta are adults and most of those are women.

People could make the case that paying young workers less for the same work is discriminatory and goes against the norms of equal pay for equal work.

Nevertheless, the restaurant industry, represented by Restaurants Canada, is determined to maintain the archaic notion that restaurants should thrive at the expense of their employees.

Paying employees a decent wage is anathema to the industry, which begs the question, why do politicians want to protect the interests of an industry whose principal objective is to avoid creating real employment and paying workers a decent wage.

Such industries appear to exploit rather than contribute to the communities in which they operate and it is reasonable to assume that those who advocate on behalf Restaurants Canada will have the same biases when dealing with corporate interests and workers rights in other industries.

 

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