Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Restaurant To Avoid: Richtree Produces Bitter Fruit*



Were I a Toronto resident, Richtree Market, a restaurant located in the Eaton Centre, is a business I would refuse to patronize. Its union-busting tactics should appall anyone who cares in the least about workers' rights.

As reported in The Toronto Star, Richtree Market began its dark anti-union journey in January, when it terminated all of its employees and closed the business. For Nazrul Islam, their chef for 25 years, it was a devastating blow:

“It was my first job in Canada and it had good benefits,” said the 57-year-old man who came from Bangladesh. “I was king of the kitchen.”

However, Islam's shock was compounded upon discovering Richtree is reopening at the Eaton Centre on Sept. 9, metres away from its previous spot, without him or any of the other 49 workers who were laid off.

According to the union representing the employees, Unite Here 75, this is a major violation of Canadian labour law.

“They are opening at the same location, same concept, same company, same owner, but we don’t get our jobs back,” said Islam, who’s had no luck finding a new job. “I have five family members to feed. How can we survive? I cannot afford next month’s rent.”

Richtree, for its part, claims that it has done nothing wrong:

“In January, Richtree was no longer in operation and successfully completed the process of collective bargaining with Local 75,” said a company representative, who agreed to read a statement but not be named. “The severance packages were greater than the minimum and each associate accepted those packages. Each and every one of them.”

The problem with the severance packages is that the employees had no knowledge that the restaurant was planning to reopen later in the year. They were, in fact, lied to:

It’s legal to shut down a business to avoid unionization, said labour lawyer Sunira Chaudhri but only if the closure is genuine and final.

“What’s illegal is superficially shutting down and severing ties (to the union), just to do business next door,” said Chaudhri. “Clearly that’s what Richtree seems to be doing, which likely wouldn’t be in line with the current labour law landscape.”

Boycotting this upscale eatery may not get Narzul Islam or the 49 other workers their jobs back, but it will send a strong message that Canadians of conscience reject such reprehensible behaviour and will do nothing to reward it.

P.S. I notice that Richtree's website states, It's always good to hear from you. If you are so inclined, you can send your thoughts on their practices by clicking here.

* Many thanks to LeDaro for his excellent suggestion of an amended title to this post.

12 comments:

  1. Gregory Angrish might find himself in a spot of trouble when he gets outed for being a bitch of Bay Street. I found the info via looking up the domain info. Methinks his name will now be mud in the upcoming months.

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    1. Thanks you for the information, bahamut. Canadians who feel strongly about this issue may wish to look up Mr. Angrish's background and associations.

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  2. Lorne, maybe the heading of your post should be 'Richtree' produces bitter fruit.

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    1. Excellent, LeDaro. Assuming you don't mind, I am going to alter the title right away.

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  3. Lorne, thank you. I consider it a compliment.

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  4. Lorne and Bahamu,

    Mr Angrish doesn't own or run the company, he's just happens to be an IT employee who registered the domain.

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    1. Thanks you for the clarification, Anon.

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  5. Guess they shouldn't have tried to start a union in the first place, they want to be greedy and start a union, they got their just desserts. All unions do is support lazy people and hinders those who actually work. They are the reason for the constant increases in our cost of living.

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    1. Anon, I can't say I agree with your assessment of unions; undeniably, they have raised people's standards of living and working conditions since their inception. If you check my blog, you will see that I have been critical of certain union practices when warranted, but I have never called for their dissolution; they are a necessary check to the often unfettered greed of business which, if they had their way, would be quite happy to pay workers as little as possible in order to maximize their profits. They do not like to share. Unions force them to recognize the essential role that labour plays in their ability to make those profits.

      I would encourage you to do a little research into the plight of the worker that prompted the beginnings of the labour movement. Victorian England would be a good starting point.

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    2. Original Anonymous! You are definitely mamagement. No doubt who this writer is...

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  6. The entire head office was wiped out as well for no other reason than hiring friends of the ceo. If you look at linked in you will see the 'executives' jump ship or get fired after a short reign. If we were going to get stuck with americans let it be a restaurant concept that would be successful. To the landlord - call pf changs or cheesecake factory!!

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