ontario restaurant closures

Service industry workers in Toronto are wondering when the next paycheque is going to come

With the recent news that all Toronto bars and dine-in restaurants have been ordered to close by both the city's Medical Officer of Health and Premier Doug Ford, there's no question that these are trying times for anyone who earns their paycheque working as a server or bartender. 

The closing of these public spaces is undoubtedly essential in order to encourage residents to practice social distancing so we can do our best to flatten the curve before COVID-19 completely overwhelms our healthcare system (like it has in Italy), but that also means we must ensure that service industry workers are taken care of. 

As the situation currently stands, restaurant workers in the city are left wondering when they'll see their next paycheques. 

Several Toronto residents who work in the industry have taken to social media in recent days to express their financial worries and request compensation. 

"@JohnTory I'm a server in Toronto and my restaurant closed because of C19 - what services are available to me to pay my rent this month? Because I'm not able to at this point," one Twitter user wrote yesterday

"My daughter has just been sent home from the restaurant she works at in Toronto and all shifts cut. How will she be compensated so she can make rent?" a concerned mother asked in response to a tweet from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Some workers are also worried that, even if financial compensation is provided, it'll be based on low service industry salaries and not the tips that most servers and bartenders live off of.

Premier Doug Ford announced legislation yesterday that will ensure workers don't lose their job if they're forced to stay home after falling sick with COVID-19 — if it passes — but it won't provide financial compensation to those who are unable to work due to closures. 

The provincial government also said it will review access to emergency assistance through Ontario Works, but no other concrete details were provided on how this could benefit service industry workers financially. 

Meanwhile, the federal government announced that it will get rid of the one-week waiting period for EI illness benefits for those forced to quarantine due to the virus. 

And in Toronto, Mayor John Tory announced a dedicated task force to help provide immediate economic relief in the city while focusing on the segments that are most impacted such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment.

Tory said he'd be participating in several conference calls this week to discuss how to best help residents and businesses, starting with representatives from the hospitality and film sectors yesterday. 

But for now, service industry workers in Toronto are simply left waiting for someone to show them the money. 

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns

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