By Chris Richardson
Service people at Mr. Greenjeans restaurant in the Eaton Centre were told to go home after a vote by local 75 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union. The 22 employees of the restaurant who asked for a three per cent pay raise over the next two years were locked out of work on Sept. 9.
“When we came in, they said, you go away. You come in,'” said Sabrina Singh, a 40-year-old cook who has been working at Mr. Greenjeans for seven years. “Whoever they think voted against them, they locked out,” she said as she handed out flyers on Yonge Street.
Mr. Greenjeans has remained open and 50 of their 75 workers are still on the job. Replacement workers have been called to fill in for the picketers. Among the newly hired employees is Briar Stewart, a third-year journalism student.
“When we were interviewed, they told us that a union issue was going on. But they said even if [the staff] came back, I’d still have my job,” said Stewart who was hired just days before the lockout took place.
“It’s been really hard on the staff. I can’t have an opinion on it, myself,” said Stewart.”I don’t really know the whole story. I have a job. I’m making money. That’s all that really matters to me.
” Workers who crossed the picket line and those recently hired are working without a contract and without health and dental benefits.
Waiters and waitresses like Stewart are making $5.95 per hour, while other service staff are making slightly more.
“The issue is collective bargaining,” said David Dimitry, head of labour relations for the restaurant. “Their proposals were unacceptable and the lockout is the result.”
But according to Bill Fitzpatrick, an analyst with the union, Mr. Greenjeans crossed a line in its dealings with the situation.
He argues that the restaurant can’t pick and choose who can work and who can’t, based on their union ties. He says the union is taking this concern to the labour board.
“It was a selective lockout and that’s what we’re charging is illegal,” he said. “We see this as an effort to bust the union.”
Although Dimitry refused to comment on how Mr. Greenjeans is being affected by the situation, it appears patrons of the restaurant are taking the matter in stride.
Janet Fedorko, a patron of the restaurant, says the picketers hadn’t had an impact.
“When I want to go for lunch, I want to go for lunch.”
But Kerry Hughes another patron of Mr. Greenjeans said, she “wouldn’t eat there ever again; even if they served it on silver platters.”
John Hillier, a picketing waiter, just wanted to get back to work.
“We feel discriminated against because we voted on a contract,”he said.