Bridgehead’s new policy to share tips with managers ‘doesn’t make any sense’: labour group

November 6, 2023

Including managers in tip pool renders minimum wage hike ‘moot,’ says barista

Guy Quenneville · CBC News

Baristas and shift supervisors at Ottawa’s Bridgehead coffeehouses who just got minimum wage boosts are being unfairly punished by a new policy that adds managers to their tip pools, a local labour group says.

Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa & District Labour Council, said the tip-sharing change — which Bridgehead confirmed to CBC — takes away from the gains recently made by minimum wage workers.

The Ontario government hiked the minimum wage by just over a dollar, to $16.55 an hour, on Oct. 1.

“It really is hard to understand,” said McKenny of Bridgehead’s decision. “Especially at a time when those minimum wage workers need that increase in wages.”

Bridgehead, which began as an Ottawa-owned company and was acquired by Toronto-based Aegis Brands in 2019, declined to be interviewed.

In an emailed statement, Bridgehead president Paul Pascal said managers were added to the pool in October “to acknowledge their contributions.”

“Our coffeehouse managers have always been an integral part of the team, actively contributing to the exceptional guest experience we strive to provide,” Pascal said. 

The inclusion of front-line managers in tip-sharing is not new, with workers at a restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ont., going on strike partly over that issue in 2019.

Change might be ‘distressing,’ company warns

Bridgehead operates 21 cafés in Ottawa, according to its website.

According to a staff note sent to employees at one downtown location, the minimum wage hike affected the hourly pay of baristas and supervisors, and “instead of increasing the managers’ salary accordingly, Bridgehead has decided to include managers in tips as their raise” as of Oct. 9.

“Since all our tips are divided equally by the hours worked at our store,” the note continued, “adding another person’s hours to this will impact the amount of money each of you can expect to receive in tips.”

The note acknowledged the change “may be distressing.” Coffeehouse staff were consulted about the change, Pascal added in his statement to CBC.

McKenny said it was “absolutely ridiculous” Bridgehead was using tips meant for their “lowest-paid workers” to boost managers’ pay.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

A man in a teal shirt stands outside on a sunny day.
Labour council president Sean McKenny, seen here in 2018, says workers like baristas need to benefit from the minimum wage hike increase. (CBC)

Staff resent change, says barista

A barista who works at a different downtown location told CBC the minimum wage increase “was effectively [made] moot by the decrease in tips.” 

CBC has agreed not to name her because she’s worried about losing her job. 

The salaried managers’ raise came to the detriment of “our take-home income and not at the expense of the company,” she said via email.

Staff have met the news with a mix of annoyance and resentment, she added.

In an interview, she said that while she’s not personally opposed to managers sharing in tips, she’s worried the new system might incentivize them to schedule themselves for more floor hours, which could take hours away from baristas and supervisors.

The staff note at the other location said there is a limit on how many hours managers can claim for tips. It also encouraged employees to talk to a supervisor if they thought a manager was “claiming more than what they are owed in tips.”

The barista said she’s worried about how that process would work.

She also said staff at her coffeehouse were informed about the change just a few days before it took effect, and that she wasn’t consulted beforehand. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa

Guy Quenneville is a reporter at CBC Ottawa. He can be reached at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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