‘People are out of jobs’: former Saint-Henri deli employees demand missing pay

Many gathered outside Place-Saint-Henri metro station to protest the unpaid wages of former Deli Sokolow employees. Sunday, March 5, 2017. Nav Pall / Global News

Former employees of a Saint-Henri deli took to the streets Sunday to demand what they say are thousands of dollars of unpaid wages and benefits.

Déli Sokołów closed its doors Nov. 21, much to the surprise of its employees who showed up to find “locked doors, with no notice of closure.”

“It’s been going on for three months now. They locked their doors and people are out of jobs,” said former employee Cinder Ikeda.

Joined by local and union activists, Ikeda and his former colleagues rallied outside Place-Saint-Henri Metro station, telling Global News they want to mobilize and let the owners know “this is not OK” and it’s time to pay up.

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The deli’s location was the once thriving family-owned Restaurant John that opened in 1919. It was handed down to three generations before closing.

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In April 2015, it was purchased by Shayne Gryn and Leah Freeman who opened Sokołów as a Jewish-style deli.

Freeman is no longer associated with the business.

Nav Pall / Global News
Nav Pall / Global News
Nav Pall / Global News

Employees claim in a statement on Facebook that the troubles started right from the beginning.

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“[We] have repeatedly faced outright unpaid wages, unpaid annual leave pay, bounced checks and associated fees, repeated delays in receiving our pay, and not being given Records of Employment,” said Ikeda.

He insists the rally is a last resort, saying he tried multiple times to speak to his employer – to no avail – and taking to the streets is “the logical extension of what we have to do next.”

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A committee was formed by 19 former employees who say they are collectively owed more than $7100 in unpaid wages and indemnities.

The deli’s owner declined an interview, but referred Global News to an official statement in which he said the restaurant had “operated consistently at a loss” and were forced to close when an “essential utility” was cut.

“We did not have enough funds to the pay the balance owed and were unsuccessful in our attempts to gain additional loans to cover it,” it read.

Owner Shayne Gryn is in the middle of filing for bankruptcy, a process in which he promises the former staff will be able to reclaim their outstanding pay through Canada’s Wage Earner Protection Program.

Much to the chagrin of the employees, this can be a lengthy process, but Gryn said that he is collaborating with the CSST to ensure that everything is done correctly.

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Sunday’s efforts were a form of pressure by the employees who fear if the matter drags on, it may be forgotten.

“This is long overdue,” Ikeda said. “We are going to continue mobilizing and we will not let this die out.”

The gathering brought many who stand in solidarity with the employees and for Ikeda, it reaches far beyond his personal experience.

“It’s sending a clear message to other employers in the neighbourhood and employers everywhere that they can’t continue to exploit their employees,” he said.

He hopes that support in numbers will help others in similar situations.

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