Chinese workers in Greater Toronto restaurants face “widespread and persistent” workplace abuse, including being routinely denied minimum wage, overtime pay and vacation pay, according to a new report.
The report to be released Monday finds that some 43 per cent of Chinese workers earned less than the minimum wage, currently set at $11.25. Over half of the respondents reported working more than 40 hours a week, but only 11 per cent of those eligible for overtime pay said they received it.
The majority of workers were also cheated out of their statutory entitlements, the report shows: 61 per cent said their employers denied them public holidays, and 57 per cent said they did not receive vacation pay.
“The experience of Chinese restaurant workers stands out as a powerful illustration of the atrocities suffered by some of the most vulnerable workers in our economy, as well as a demonstration of the complete failure of the Ontario government to act on its legal obligation to protect workers,” says the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic report called “Sweet & Sour: The Struggle of Chinese Restaurant-workers.”
Avvy Go, director of the clinic, said the findings were no different from a similar survey it did almost three decades ago.
“Unfortunately, nothing has changed in the last 30 years. Our clients come to us asking for help on the same issues over their employment rights. They are still paid half in cash, half by cheque, with a pay stub,” Go said in an interview.
“We are still banging our heads against the same system over and over again. We call the report Sweet & Sour because it is a good deal for restaurant patrons and owners but sour for the workers.”
The clinic undertook the survey to identify the scale of workplace exploitation experienced by Chinese workers, after being contacted by more than 600 clients with complaints about employment standards violations over the past three years.