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Top Montreal Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon Under Fire After Advertising Bottom-Rung Wages

Owner Martin Picard says despite what the job ad says, no one at his establishment is getting paid minimum wage

wood-clad restaurant dining room Au Pied de Cochon/Facebook

Top-tier Montreal establishment Au Pied de Cochon is under fire for seemingly trying to land minimum wage labour for its Duluth Street kitchen.

The iconic Montreal restaurant posted an employment listing on the Government of Canada job board on November 11, seeking to fill five full-time cook vacancies for $13.50 an hour — equivalent to the current minimum wage in Quebec.

The job posting has fuelled backlash across social media, including on Facebook group Staff de Bar & Resto Montreal Montreal, with many noting that workers can find higher-paying gigs at far less reputed establishments, and others promising to stop spending their money somewhere that its own workers could never afford to dine. (A dinner for two at the restaurant easily comes in at over a couple hundred dollars, Montreal economist Ianik Marcil noted in a widely shared Facebook post criticizing the job offer.)

However, reacting to the criticism on television show À Votre Affaires on Monday, Au Pied de Cochon chef-owner Martin Picard claimed that no one at his establishment is earning only $13.50 an hour, and that the figure was meant as a starting off point.

In an interview with La Presse, Picard’s business partner and Au Pied de Cochon co-owner Marc Beaudin clarified that the figure would vary according to the level of experience of the candidates, and that given the current tip-sharing agreement between employees at the establishment, kitchen staff make approximately $16 to $19 an hour, depending the week. At the end of a two-week period, Beaudin claims employees are “able to pay their rent, pay for their groceries and everything.” With the average one-bedroom rent in Montreal now over $1,500, though, it’s hard to imagine that math adding up for everyone.

Though some appear gobsmacked by Au Pied de Cochon’s job ad, those familiar with the wages for kitchen staff at a number of upscale Montreal restaurants will tell you it isn’t unheard of — at least it wasn’t before the pandemic. But Montreal’s most famous restaurants have historically been able to sell the experience and prestige that comes from working at their establishments as its own form of intangible compensation — a so-called priceless notch on the CV.

Now, restaurant workers are exiting the industry for better wages, health benefits, and improved workplace conditions, and those who are staying have lots more on their plate, be it ensuring public health measures are being met, contending with the increased risk of COVID exposure, or absorbing the extra tasks left by staff vacancies.

According to Quebec restaurant association ARQ, kitchen salaries have risen 15 percent since 2019, with cooks now being offered an average starting salary of $18.22 an hour. So it would seem restaurant staffing troubles have led at least some employers to begin re-evaluating their wages. However, with many withholding salary ranges in their job postings, opting for the more vague promise of “competitive wages,” it can be hard for workers to tell which restaurants have committed to significantly adjusting their rates — even if it’s now clear Au Pied de Cochon likely isn’t among them.

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