As we saw this summer, tips can spark heated and unexpected debates. Both in the public square… and in the Bell Centre.
Posted at 6:30am
Payment terminals that suggest a 15% or 18% tip are not just fun for employees. Speak to those who serve food and drink at the Montreal Canadiens’ den’s thirty counters. The “tip” option added last year creates significant income disparities between colleagues.
“We won’t hide it, the vast majority of customers tip $12.75 for a beer, but not a $5.35 hot dog,” an employee told me. You already see the problem. Who wants to be asked to sell fries when the counter opposite, where the Molson flows freely, is two to three times more lucrative?
Another element that feeds the frustration, even if nobody is angry: if there is a shortage of hands, the CH group hires temporary workers. “Sometimes contract workers end up in bars and union members end up selling hot dogs and earning less tips,” said Teamsters spokesman Stéphane Lacroix.
In addition, agency workers do not receive tips, the union reports. It is therefore more profitable to work with agency employees at your counter than with unionized colleagues, with whom it is imperative to share the sums generated by customers. A situation that also feeds the “feeling of injustice”.
CH Group management is “aware of the problems” tipping poses and is working with the Teamsters union to understand and resolve them, Canadian spokesman Charles Saindon-Courtois wrote to me. He didn’t want to say more.
A meeting on this subject was actually supposed to take place on Wednesday at the initiative of the Employers’ Party. The union could not tell me if it had taken place. “We want to clarify that before the start of the ice hockey season,” said Stéphane Lacroix. The goal is to find a fairer way to share tips, which have skyrocketed over the past year, while still respecting seniority.
You should know that early in the pandemic, the Bell Center banned cash payments almost everywhere. However, the terminals did not allow customers to leave tips. The employees of the food counters therefore suffered considerable loss of income. They claimed that tips could be paid by credit or debit card.
The employer agreed in July 2021. In return, union members agreed to a few dollars’ hourly cut in wages. Apparently nobody got poorer. But after a year, we find that in real life, tipping at terminals creates some tensions that Bell Center doesn’t have a monopoly on.
After my columns about tips were published this summer, customers, waiters and patrons alike have spoken at length on the topic. This revealed some misunderstanding and even abuse.
A father wrote to me to denounce a dairy for withholding his student’s tip on the pretext that she was making more than $11.40 an hour. What a bogus argument! Nothing prevents an employer from paying more than minimum wage.
A woman who serves alcohol at weddings and banquets can’t always keep her tip, she told me. The reason she is told at the end of the evening: she is paid by an employment agency. Just like at the Bell Center.
However, the Labor Standards Act is clear: the tip belongs to the employee who performed the service.
According to Charles Tremblay Potvin, professor at the University of Laval Law School, a temp worker cannot legally be deprived of funds transferred by clients. The same applies to the Commission on Standards, Equal Opportunities, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST), which recalls that the same rights and obligations apply worldwide when it comes to tips.
On the restaurant owner side, we’d like to be able to force waiters to share their tips with kitchen staff for easier recruitment behind the herds. An idea that is anything but unanimous. CSN and FTQ are against it. But a majority of customers (55%) support the idea of sharing, according to a recent survey commissioned by Léger from the Association Restoration Québec (ARQ), which wants to pressure Quebec to change the law.
Five years ago, the proportion was still 47%. ARQ spokesman Martin Vézina believes that the increase can be explained by the increasing recognition of the work of chefs thanks to the proliferation of television programs in which they are featured.
The “trio 15% – 18% – 20%” is undoubtedly not over for us.