Service industry gets to keep the change

Servers, hairdressers, bartenders and other service-industry workers who rely on tips should soon be able to pocket all of their hard-earned cash.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Amanda Chachel, a nursing student who works in an Ottawa restaurant where her bosses take a portion of her tips.

Chachel was reacting to news that the Ontario legislature is expected to hold a final vote next week on a bill that would protect tips from the grasp of employers.

A tip jar in Mike's Place at Carleton University THE JUNCTION/Curtis Panke

A tip jar in Mike’s Place at Carleton University. THE JUNCTION/Curtis Panke

The new bill looks to amend existing legislation by prohibiting an employer from withholding an employee’s tips or gratuities, or making a deduction from employee tips.

“It seems like a scam,” said Chachel, whose tips are withheld to pay for such things as broken glasses, plates, and credit card service charges.

Chachel has to pay $1 for credit card fees per shift, even if she doesn’t have a customer that pays with a credit card. Chachel argues that as, a server, she should not be responsible for these fees.

Chachel said there is uncertainty as to where her tip money goes. “It’s hard to get accountability where the tips are going for,” she explains. Asking where the money is going can “create an atmosphere of distrust,” she said.

Christina Carson, 25, who has worked as a server for the past seven year, says the bill doesn’t affect her personally because she keeps all her tips. She would be “a bit outraged if my tips were going to the owner.”

She says she supports the bill because she knows service-industry workers rely on tips for income. They help help bridge the gap between the $9.80 minimum wage for servers and the standard minimum wage rate of $11.25 across the province.

“The hourly wage is so low, it’s insufficient to support daily life,” says Chachel.

Support for the new bill is not just coming from employees. The Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, the largest provincial hospitality association in Canada, has been giving Bill 12 its full support.

“The industry doesn’t always support more red tape,” said Leslie Smejkal, vice-president of government relations for the association. “But this bill has had full support.”

On Thursday the bill will go through final scrutiny by a legislative committee before a final vote is expected on Monday. The bill, which was revived after it died when the 2014 election was called, is sponsored by Liberal MPP Arthur Potts.


Author: Curtis Panke

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