Winnipeg restaurant chain Stella’s has closed its location on Sherbrook Street and put the building up for sale.
Photos circulating online on Friday show the location with for-sale signs in the windows.
The Union representing its employees says that was the first it heard of the closure. “This is shameful and cowardly to do this,” Jeff Traeger, president of UFCW Local 832 says.
“All these workers ever wanted was a fair schedule and a collective voice at work, so their home lives could better complement their work lives.”
Employees have been on strike since late September.
Dine-in service at the restaurant stopped a week later, before Winnipeg’s renewed COVID-19 restrictions forced the closure of all dining rooms in the city.
In a news release, Stella’s says the decision to close the Sherbrook location was made after talks last week between the union, restaurant and a conciliator went nowhere.
“Stella’s maintains a willingness to extend the collective agreement imposed by the Labour Board [last October].”
The restaurant says this contract includes pay above minimum wage, increased vacation percentages, a health and dental benefits plan and a respectful workplace policy, all of which have been in place since last year.
That’s disputed by the union, however, who claims workers have been intimidated.
“This employer has been nothing but vindictive towards those workers ever since they were unionized,” Traeger says.
The restaurant says the union’s demands — guaranteed weekends off after a year of employment, minimum guaranteed weekly hours, and restaurant-wide wage increases — are impossible to meet during the pandemic.
“Early arbitration isn’t a viable option because opening the Sherbrook location under the union’s demands isn’t possible. There is neither the time nor the financial resources to concentrate efforts on anything besides surviving the pandemic and keeping locations afloat.”
It’s not the first Stella’s to close in 2020 — the long-time location on Osborne street closed earlier this year, citing the pandemic as the reason why.
It was the only other location in Winnipeg that was unionized.
The location at Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport also closed after months of decreased traffic through the facility.
Stella’s locations on Portage Avenue, Pembina Highway, and Grant Avenue were still open prior to Winnipeg’s latest round of increased restrictions.
Workers at the Sherbrook location will continue to get strike pay for the remainder of 2020, Traeger says, while the union will also help with them finding work elsewhere.
UFCW is reiterating its call for Winnipeggers to boycott all Stella’s locations.
“The Union acknowledges that restaurants are going through an incredibly difficult time under this pandemic, but no Manitoban should support worker intimidation.”
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