The Current

Niagara servers protest policy forcing them to share tips with management

Disgruntled servers in Niagara Falls are nearing their sixth week on the picket line as they continue to protest a new policy that they say requires them to split more of their tips with salaried managers.

About 95 Rainforest Cafe servers, bussers, hostesses have been on strike since April

About 95 servers, bussers and hostesses who work at the Rainforest Cafe in Niagara Falls have been on strike since April. They're upset about a new policy they say requires them to share their tips with managers. (Workers United Canada Council)
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Disgruntled servers in Niagara Falls are nearing their sixth week on the picket line as they continue to protest a new policy that they say requires them to split more of their tips with salaried managers.

Shaun Watson, a server at the Rainforest Cafe, said he's always had to "tip out" — or share his tips — with other non-serving staff such as hostesses, bussers and kitchen workers.

However, that amount recently "doubled overnight," he told The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

"We'd be tipping out $45 dollars on a normal day basis, and now we're tipping out $90," he said.

Policy change follows Ontario wage hike

About 95 restaurant servers, bussers and hostesses at the Rainforest Cafe have been on strike since early April, after working without a contract for more than a year.

Their employer told them it had to raise their tip-out amount in order to stay viable and save jobs after Ontario's minimum wage hike last year, Watson said.

The server said he has no problem tipping out to workers behind the scenes, who he described as "our backbone when it comes to making sure the table is set correctly, greeting the guests for the first time."

But when it comes to tipping out to management, he doesn't think it's fair.

"We do our own jobs, and we do it well," he said.

Employer responds

In a statement from Canadian Niagara Hotels Inc., which runs the café, Sarah Vazquez, vice-president of marketing and business development, said "Hosts, bussers, servers and bartenders appear satisfied with the Restaurant's current offer.

"The staff want the Union to end the strike so they can serve more guests."

To discuss the strike and the motivation behind it, Chattopadhyay spoke to:

  • Shaun Watson, who has been a server and bartender at the Rainforest Cafe in Niagara Falls for more than 15 years.
  • James Rilett, Central Canada vice-president at Restaurants Canada, a national industry advocacy group.
  • Alison Braley-Rattai, an assistant professor in the department of labour studies at Brock University.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Produced by Samira Mohyeddin and Danielle Carr. 

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