An Ontario New Democratic Party private member intends to introduce legislation that would prohibit restaurant owners from taking a percentage of tips left by patrons for their waiters, servers and bartenders.
Since 2010, Ontario NDP Member of Provincial Parliament of Beaches-East York and Finance Critic Michael Prue has fought to protect tips for restaurant workers from the restaurant owners, which is known as the practice of “tip outs.”
The MPP is now urging the Ontario government to take action. Prue explained that most customers do not realize that a portion of the tips intended for wait staff could be taken by the restaurant owners. In some cases, according to Prue, bar and restaurant owners take the entire gratuity.
Waiters in the province do not earn the minimum wage and earn $8.90. The reason why waiters and servers do not earn the $10.25 minimum wage is because it is expected the tips would supplement the employees’ income.
“What we're opposed to is tip outs, where the owner or manager of a restaurant takes a percentage of the tips to supplement their own wages,” in an interview with the Canadian Press.
“We don't think that people who are giving tips know that the waiter or waitress who just provided great service has to give some of that away. For a manager to come along and take that tip, even a percentage of it, is totally wrong, because the tip was not intended for management. It's illegal in places like New York state, and it should be illegal here too.”
He noted that some restaurant owners demand a percentage of the total bill when no tip is left. If a customer spends $100 then a restaurant owner could ask the employee for $5.
At Queen’s Park, Ontario Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey told reporters it was permissible for owners to take a percentage of tips if it was agreed prior to the agreement of employment. She added that professional wait staff can always find work somewhere else if they do not concur with the owner’s requests.
“When you are a good server, it's a very competitive environment. You can go where you can get the best deal,” stated Jeffrey.
Prue is set to introduce the Protecting Employees' Tips Act, which is his second attempt at introducing this bill. An earlier bill similar died last year when the election was called. In March of last year, Prue was in an exchange with Mississauga MPP and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa during Question Period.
“Now we have an opportunity, in this minority parliament, to see to it that restaurant and bar owners and managers be banned from taking their employees' tip money,” added Prue. “We have a chance to finally give these workers the protection they so deserve.”