Tipping creates a fight at the Bell Center

As we saw this summer, tips can spark heated and unexpected debates. Both in the public square… and inside the Bell Center.

Posted at 6:30 am.

Contrary to what one might think, payment terminals that suggest leaving a 15% or 18% tip are not the only cause of happiness for workers. Talk to the food and beverage servers at the thirty counters in the Montreal Canadiens home. The “tipping” option, added last year, creates significant income disparities between partners.

“We won’t hide it, most customers ‘tip’ for a $12.75 beer, but not for a $5.35 hot dog,” one employee told me. Who wants to be assigned to sell fries when the counter opposite, where Molson flows freely, is two or three times more profitable?

Another element that feeds the frustration, although without bad intentions: without hands, the CH Group hires agency staff. “Sometimes agency workers go to bars, so union members sell hot dogs and get small tips,” said Teamsters spokesman Stéphane Lacroix.

Additionally, the agency’s staff did not receive tips, the union reported. So it is more beneficial to work at your counter with agency staff rather than union partners who have to share the amount earned from clients. A situation that also feeds the “feeling of injustice”.

CH Group management is “well aware of the issues” raised by the tips and it 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.

In fact, a meeting on this topic, at the initiative of the employer’s party, will be held on Wednesday. The union couldn’t tell me if it happened. “We want to settle this before the hockey season starts,” said Stéphane Lacroix. The goal is to find a fairer way to share tips, which jumped last year, while respecting seniority.

You should know that at the beginning of the pandemic, the Bell Center banned cash payments almost everywhere. However, its terminals do not allow customers to leave tips. So the employees of the food counters suffered a huge loss of income. They claim that tips can be paid by credit or debit card.

The employer accepted in July 2021. In return, union members agreed to an hourly wage cut of a few dollars. Apparently, no one became poorer. But after a year, we know that in real life, the issue of tips at the terminals has caused some tensions where the Bell Center does not have a monopoly.

After my columns published this summer on tips, customers, servers and patrons alike spoke volumes on the subject. This reveals a misunderstanding and even abuse.

A father wrote to me to criticize a dairy bar for keeping his student daughter’s tips on the grounds that she was making more than $11.40 an hour. What a false argument! Nothing prevents an employer from paying more than the minimum wage.

A woman who serves alcohol at weddings and banquets doesn’t always keep her tips, she told me. The reason he was given at the end of the night: he was paid by an employment agency. Just like the Bell Center.

However, the Labor Standards Act clear: the tip belongs to the employee who provided the service.

According to Charles Tremblay Potvin, professor at the Faculty of Law at Laval University, an agency worker cannot legally be deprived of the amounts remitted by clients. Same story with the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST), where it is remembered that in terms of tips, the same rights and obligations apply worldwide.

On the side of restaurant owners, we want to force servers to share their tips with kitchen employees to facilitate recruitment behind the stoves. An idea that is far from unanimous. CSN and FTQ are against it. But the majority of customers (55%) support the idea of ​​sharing, reveals a recent Léger survey commissioned by the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ), which seeks to put pressure on Quebec to change the law.

Five years ago, the proportion was 47%. The increase is explained by the increased recognition of the work of cooks thanks to the increase in TV shows showing it, ARQ spokesman Martin Vézina believes.

There is no doubt that we are not done hearing about the “15%-18%-20% trio”.

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