News / Toronto

Labour board rules in favour of 50 Eaton Centre Richtree Market employees

A labour dispute between former restaurant employees and restaurant Richtree Market has been resolved in favour of the 50 unionized workers who lost their jobs last January.

The board ruled that grab-and-go chain eatery Richtree Market was still bound by its collective bargaining agreement with Unite Here Local 75, despite letting go most of its employees last year and replacing them with non-union workers after moving 50 metres away in the Eaton Centre food court.

Richtree had argued that employees’ bargaining rights did not continue at the new location. The union had argued that the agreement remained valid within the Eaton Centre and that letting the unionized employees go constituted an unfair labour practice under section 96 of the Labour Relations Act.

“What this means is that employers can’t simply close operations for renovations and apply for a new street address and throw out the union,” said David Sanders, organizing director for Local 75.

“The protections workers need in today’s economy are strengthened and reaffirmed by today’s labour board decision.”

The union had not heard from the company, Sanders said, but hoped to negotiate with its leadership to determine whether fired employees could return to work.

Nazrul Islam, who worked at Richtree as a cook for 25 of the 26 years he has been in Canada, said he was heartbroken when he lost his job in January, but he was keen to get back to work.

“I want the old job. I want my old job back,” said Islam, originally from Bangladesh, adding his “feelings are really great” upon learning of the decision handed down by OLRB chair Bernard Fishbein and Tuesday.

The implications of Tuesday’s ruling for Richtree and its employees isn’t immediately obvious. Greg McGinnis, the lawyer representing Richtree at the labour board, declined to comment except to say: “Clearly it was not the result we expected.”

A statement on the company’s website regarding the labour dispute said it was “simply not true” that Richtree hired new staff at lower wages.

“To the contrary, we have hired over 200 local Toronto job seekers at extremely competitive rates. A majority of the jobs for which we have hired are very different than those in our previous location,” the statement says.

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