Forty unionized restaurant workers took a big step towards justice today after the Ontario Labour Relations Board issued a decision confirming their union, UNITE HERE Local 75, continues to have bargaining rights at their workplace. Local 75 is continuing to fight for the reinstatement of the original workers.
In January of 2013, approximately 40 workers at the original Richtree Restaurant at the Eaton Centre were dismissed with two days’ notice, told the facility would be closing permanently. On September 9th, however, Richtree opened a renovated restaurant in the Eaton Centre, metres away from its original location, hired an entirely new staff, and has been operating non-union since.
In his decision, OLRB Chair Bernard Fishbein concluded, “I am not persuaded that in the circumstances of this case, the Union’s bargaining rights should be extinguished by a move of some 50 metres across the corridor of the mall to a space only recently labelled with different street, convenience or entrance address that presently has no real existence other than on a piece of paper.”
According to Nazrul Islam, a cook with 25 years of experience at Richtree and one of the forty workers who lost their jobs at the old location, today’s OLRB decision is a vindication. “We have said all along, it’s not right for the company to push us aside the way they did. I loved my job, and I enjoy serving my customers.”
UNITE HERE Local 75 represents workers at Richtree’s Eaton Centre, College Park and Bayview locations. Workers at all three locations remain in a strike/lockout position.
Teferi Zemene, a UNITE HERE Local 75 leader and volunteer union organizer, sees the OLRB decision as an important one for workers across the province. “Hospitality workers are often immigrants, minorities and people of colour. We come to Canada to work for a better life for ourselves and our families,” said Zemene. “The Board’s decision today means more workers have a chance to achieve the dream that brought us to this country.”
John Cartwright, President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, sees the decision in the context of a broader fight for good jobs, especially in the traditionally low-wage service sector. “Too many companies have abandoned their employees without any recourse. The fight by the union at Richtree shows that we won’t walk away when a boss tries to destroy good jobs,” said Cartwright. “Everyone deserves a living wage and a job with benefits.”