Stolen wages, unpaid earnings, lost pay.
It can go by a number of names but they all mean the same thing; workers not being paid for hours worked.
“When an employer steals from a worker it’s scary,” said Charlie Huntley.
Huntley is one of a number of baristas who previously worked at The Smiling Goat Coffee Shop.
The chain ceased to exist amid much controversy stemming from allegations that wages weren’t being paid to employees.
“There were workers who had their bank accounts frozen,” they explained. “That means they didn’t have access to the very little money that they had.”
“It’s very stressful seeing your coworkers going through it,” Huntley said.
The Nova Scotia NDP would like to see laws surrounding unpaid wages strengthened and the process to recoup the funds sped up, and the New Democrats are hoping to make that reality with new legislation they’ll soon introduce in the Legislative Assembly.
“When you’re making minimum wage, and I’m sure in some cases there are people making less than minimum wage, so if you take a pay or two away from them you can imagine the significant impact,” said Tammy Martin, the MLA for Cape Breton Centre. “People going through their savings or choosing whether or not they buy food or pay rent, this is not acceptable.”
The new legislation would create an inspection system for workers to report wage theft violations anonymously, launch a wage theft inspector’s office to investigate allegations as well as issue payment orders and establish an employee wage protection program which would cover up to $10,000 of unpaid wages.
“Having a government that would enforce this, that workers have somewhere to go to ensure that their employers are responsible to pay their wages is something that we need to have,” Martin said. “And we need to have it now.”