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Labour activists deliver 'Bad Boss' award to east Vancouver restaurant owner

The Employee Rights Action Network (EARN), a grassroots group sponsored by the BC Federation of Labour, took to the rainy streets of east side Vancouver on Oct. 30 to publicly deliver a "Bad Boss" award to Bon Wong, the owner of Bon's off Broadway restaurant.

EARN says it has sworn affidavits from one former and one current Bon's employees that the east side eatery breached the Employment Standards Act by paying less than the minimum wage and failing to pay legally required vacation pay.

"What does a $2.99 breakfast in Vancouver cost?" asked EARN spokesperson Stephen Von Sychowski. "In this case, the rights and wages of the people who work there."

Contacted by the Tyee on Oct. 31, Wong declined to comment, saying he had already commented to other papers and, "Now I just want to let it rest."

On Oct. 30, the Vancouver Province reported that Wong denied the charges allegedly made by his employees.

"A couple of staff got let go, so that's where the story is coming from," he said.

Wong told the Province liquor servers get paid $9 per hour, as required by law, and kitchen staff are paid the $10.25 hourly minimum wage.

"Nobody is paid $6 an hour," he said. Everybody gets vacation and overtime pay, he added.

Bon said he does ask each server to pay him $2 per hour from their tips -- for a total of $12 each during a six-hour shift, the Province reported.

Government responded to the EARN protest action on Oct. 31. Von Sychowski received a message from Chris Johnson, executive director, Employment Standards Branch, Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, reading:

"The complaints you have provided in respect of Bon's Off Broadway have been forwarded to the Lower Mainland office of the Employment Standards Branch for further action, which will be undertaken according to our usual process. The request to keep the names of the complainants confidential is duly noted."

This is the second time EARN has awarded the "Bad Boss" recognition. The award was developed by EARN to highlight real situations where government policies are failing to protect non-unionized workers' rights, Von Sychowski said.

"The situation alleged at Bon's highlights the problems with two key government shortfalls," said Von Sychowski. "First, requiring young workers to use a bogus self-help kit that tells them to first raise their concerns with their employers, and second, that too many young workers simply don't know their rights."

Von Sychowski said that until the early 2000s, employers were required to post the provisions of the Employment Standards Act where they could be seen by employees. On the question of the self-help kit, he said that young workers are afraid of being fired, and in a tough job market, many feel forced to put up with unfair and illegal management practices over having no work at all.

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy beats for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos@infinet.net.

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