Dozens of staff at Mile End vegan restaurant Aux Vivres have unanimously voted in favour of a mandate to strike. The union went public with the news on social media on Thursday, after negotiations with their bosses stalled.
Around 65 staff at Aux Vivres’ restaurant on St-Laurent unionized in 2017 with Quebec’s Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), and Aux Vivres’ management recognized the union in May last year. On Tuesday this week, union members — which include cooks, servers, and cashiers — met to vote on their employer’s final offer, which addressed wages and other working conditions. It’s clear, however, that the offer wasn’t good enough because the union rejected it before approving a potential strike. Staff at Aux Vivres’ commercial kitchen at another site in Mile End are not part of the union, and are not involved in any potential strike.
According to union president Érika Plante-Jean, the union’s main goal is to increase wages for staff at the busy restaurant, who she says are mostly on minimum wage — $12 per hour in Quebec, or $9.80 for servers earning tips (if they serve alcohol). Plante-Jean tells Eater that staff want to send a message to Aux Vivres’ managers and owners.
“[Aux Vivres] used to give very good work conditions in comparison with other restaurants. Our objective is to go back to those conditions...we hope that our employer will see that the disappointment is shared by most of our coworkers.”
The restaurant is still open, with the strike likely in the coming days.
Le 22 mai, les membres du Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses d’Aux Vivres se sont rassemblé.e.s pour voter sur...Posted by Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs d'Aux Vivres - CSN on Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Meanwhile, Aux Vivres management tells Eater that the restaurant is continuing to negotiate. Executive director of production Shawn Arseneau says that communication “has not been halted”.
“We are confident that we will be able to arrange a fair and reasonable collective agreement ...we support all our staff and, as always, are committed to a fair and positive work environment for everyone.”
In contrast, Plante-Jean said that union members felt that negotiations had stopped with the most recent offer from the restaurant that led to the vote.
“We wish they would care about the people working for them. Even if they only care about their profit, they would probably have more if their employees felt appreciated.”
Plante-Jean also highlighted issues with staff regularly working double shifts. She also noted that Aux Vivres used to schedule staff for shifts shorter than the legal minimum of three hours, although that changed after the union was formed.
Signs of industrial action have been visible for a few weeks now. In late April, the union posted to Facebook, stating that the province’s minimum wage increase on May 1 could “leave a bitter taste” in employees’ mouths — while minimum wages increased, pay for Aux Vivres’ staff didn’t budge, meaning staff went from being paid above minimum to being paid the bare minimum.
The same statement suggested that negotiations had stalled because the restaurant management’s priorities were focused on opening a new restaurant in Westmount.
Stay tuned for more details on the impending strike.