Poutini’s House of Poutine in downtown Toronto abruptly shut down Friday night after employees locked the door and posted a note saying they had left because of “unsafe working conditions.”
Simone Hall said she and her fellow co-workers at the Queen Street West location were shaking when they posted the note on the door.
“We were all discussing with each other what should we do, should we walk out? Should we call the owner? But the owner wasn’t getting back to us and it had been about 24 hours and at this point tensions were getting pretty high,” Hall said.
“When we all taped that sign up we were shaking.”
Hall said there were a number of occasions when employees were faced with unsafe working conditions.
“People were cutting their hands on unsharpened knives. There was no safety equipment for us to lift really hot things in the kitchen,” she said, adding the late night crowds also caused concern.
“A lot of our patrons would be drunk and belligerent and they would come in really violent and there were no policies in place to deal with these drunk people.”
Employment lawyer Howard Levitt said workers can walk off while on the job if they feel their safety concerns aren’t being addressed.
“They complained to the owner and if they don’t get recourse they should refuse to work and they had the absolute right,” he said.
“The employer then has to bring in a health and safety inspector to certify if it is dangerous or not.”
The owners and employees met on Monday afternoon to discuss staff concerns.
“We value our employees and we value health and safety and we want to get this resolved,” co-owner Fred Laliberte said.
Hall said the meeting went well and she’s optimistic changes will be made.
“They were very amicable to us, they were very serious about their business,” she said.
“They allowed us to talk to them and were very concerned with everything we brought up and said everything was legitimate.”