Risky salary offer at A&W

To avoid having to reduce their opening hours, many restaurants are multiplying original strategies to recruit employees. In Greenfield Park, south of Montreal, an A&W offers a higher hourly rate to candidates who agree to work full time. The idea may sound catchy, but…

Posted at 6:30 a.m.

“We are hiring,” indicated the large turquoise sign planted in the lawn in front of the A&W on boulevard Taschereau. No need to enter to know the salary offered. It is immediately revealed.

The restaurant is offering $16.25 an hour for full-time workers whose schedule will be “Monday to Friday daytime,” in addition to “not flat” benefits. Those who will be hired part-time will instead be entitled to $15.

I have not been able to find out how effective this strategy is for filling weekday shifts when teenagers are in school. The owner of this A&W franchise did not respond to my interview request.

Certainly, the idea of ​​offering a higher rate to full-time workers is not common in the restaurant industry “for the simple and good reason that it is not allowed”, explains the porter. word of the Quebec Restoration Association (ARQ), Martin Vézina.

In fact, section 41.1 of the Labor Standards Act (LNT) prohibits offering a different hourly rate based on the number of hours worked per week, if the employees perform the same tasks in the same establishment. Of course, experience or seniority can justify salary differences between two colleagues, but not “employment status” (full-time or part-time).

The courts have already been seized of such a case in the 1990s which involved Maison Simons, I learned from labor law lawyer Marianne Plamondon, of the Langlois firm.

The Commission des normes du travail (now CNESST) had determined that the Quebec retailer should offer the same hourly rate to its saleswomen, regardless of their status. Simons appealed the case, arguing that he was assigning each category of salespersons specific tasks. But in 1995, the Court of Appeal refused to hear his arguments and upheld the initial decision.

Different responsibilities

The salary offer of the A&W of Greenfield Park would not be generalized among the 180 franchises of this brand in Quebec, according to Stéphan Bisson, marketing director for Quebec at A&W.

“The management of human resources and recruitment is the responsibility of each operator individually. Salary policies and benefits are developed according to their management strategy. »

As for the legality of the two hourly rates announced on the poster, the manager wrote to me, after I had sent him Wednesday the verbatim of article 41.1 of the LNT, that “the different salaries are linked to the fact that the responsibilities and tasks vary from one employee to another”. On the phone, he assured me that inventory and ordering, for example, are only done on weekdays.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, even if the content of the ad is questionable. And even if the panel had disappeared at the end of the day, Thursday.

A&W franchisees find it “difficult to stand out in the current environment”, which forces them to redouble their efforts “to try to attract the attention of potential employees”, adds Stéphan Bisson.

A widespread situation in the industry.

Candy and imagination

Since the start of the pandemic, many people who had careers in the restaurant business have left the industry. Hence the increased difficulty of recruiting available full-time staff.

To be attractive, more and more restaurateurs are offering group insurance, retention bonuses such as “$500 after three months of work” or reimbursement of tuition fees, lists the ARQ. Kitchens close earlier so employees can finish at a reasonable time.

“There is this reflection: how to distinguish yourself, because everyone is looking for employees. And we are fighting against other sectors such as residences for the elderly where the schedule ends early, ”points out Martin Vézina.

Despite all the candy and imagination in the world, restaurants are being forced to close entire days or reduce their opening hours. This is the case at A&W and Tim Hortons, whose success was nevertheless built on the 24/7 schedule. This business model based on round-the-clock service is increasingly unsustainable for entrepreneurs. They show it, with good reason.

Consumers will have to get used to it. The labor shortage forces us to be patient with less experienced and fewer employees. Not just in restaurants, but everywhere: at the store, on the phone (have you tried to reach your credit card issuer recently?), at the passport office, at the airport.

Eating your emotions will not be the solution.

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