The union representing workers at a Toronto restaurant are crying foul after the company closed a location, laid off workers and then opened a new restaurant just metres away from the original location.
Richtree Natural Market Restaurants closed its Toronto Eaton Centre location in January and laid off 40 workers. When the company opened a new location in the mall several months later, it hired on a new staff of non-unionized employees.
UNITE HERE Local 75, the union representing the former employees, said the company is in violation of labour law and union employees should have been recalled to staff the new restaurant.
The union took its fight public, with Lis Pimental, president of Local 75, telling the Toronto Star that the collective agreement states that, “if any operation closes for a little while and renovates, the employees should be recalled once the facility reopens.”
UNITE HERE represents more than 50,000 members across Canada. Local 75 said it plans to file a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Company defends move
But Richtree said everything it has done is above board, and called some of the statements made in the media “inaccurate and misleading.”
“We promptly notified our union partners and all affected employees,” said Shige Hatanaka, Richtree’s senior vice president of operations, in a statement. “We abided by all severance requirements in the collective bargaining agreement, far exceeding statutory minimums with severance of 13 weeks. We also paid out insurance benefit premiums. The collective bargaining agreement then expired.”
Hatanaka said the new location features a concept that is significantly different from its previous operation, saying the majority of positions at the new location are unique.
“The thought that we are hiring associates in the new restaurant at lower rates of pay is simply not true,” Hatanaka said. “To the contrary, we have hired over 200 local Toronto job seekers at extremely competitive rates. A majority of the jobs for which we have hired are very different than those in our previous location… we did not prohibit any former associate from applying to our new location.”
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