Quebec’s restaurateurs association is in front of National Assembly legislators today (May 15), asking the government to allow restaurant owners to put tip-sharing arrangements in place, which would force servers to split their tips with other restaurant employees.
Update (May 17): According to La Presse, the Liberal government has no plans to change laws around tip sharing. Labour minister Dominique Vien effectively rejecting the association’s request, with her spokesperson saying the restaurateurs’ demands amounted to “undressing Paul in order to dress Jean”. Vien’s press attaché also pointed out that the government had already restricted increases in the tipped minimum wage to satisfy restaurant owners.
The ARQ was before the legislative committee on economy and labour to put its case forward, and in advance of that appearance, the restaurant lobby group went on a media blitz on Monday, publishing an open letter signed by over 50 chefs, restaurant owners, and other prominent figures. Those include chefs Jérôme Ferrer (Europea), Marc-André Jetté (Hoogan & Beaufort), Normand Laprise (Toqué), and Daniel Vézina, alongside other major business figures from Tourisme Montréal, the Ferreira Group, Chez Cora, Manoir Hovey, and beyond.
At present, servers are (in principle) entitled to keep all tips that they earn from serving customers, unless those servers themselves agree to split them with other staff at a restaurant. The ARQ is asking for employers to have the right to impose a tip-sharing agreement on staff (although employers would still be unable to take tips). Servers are typically paid a lower minimum wage than other restaurant staff — $9.80 per hour instead of $12 per hour, as of May 1 this year. Servers’ tips are also taxed, to some degree.
The case put forward is essentially that tip-sharing would make for fairer workplaces, while also helping employers keep employees around.
“Sharing tips is a way to recognize the importance of the work done by each employee to shape their client’s overall experience and satisfaction; this is why it is necessary that employees be provided with pay that is commensurate with what they contribute,” the open letter reads.
Of course, an alternate solution would be to just pay kitchen staff more, but the ARQ letter argues firmly against that suggestion, saying it would force restaurateurs to raise prices.
The association has done its research here: a poll cited suggests that there is 77 percent support for these kinds of tip-sharing arrangements. Another key number cited in the letter is that in 2017, server wages were reportedly around $36 per hour, although the letter does not cite a source for that number. (Server wages also vary wildly between, for example, diner staff, and those at a high-end restaurant.)
It’s unclear if the tip-sharing push will succeed in the immediate future — with a provincial election coming up this fall, time is fairly limited for the current government to craft new laws, and the Liberal government hasn’t made any substantial announcements to suggest that it is considering a change.
A previous version of this story was titled “Prominent Restaurateurs Want Quebec to Allow Tip Sharing For Kitchen Staff”.