When COVID 19 turned the tables on hospitality workers

*To ensure victims are protected and are able to return to their jobs, Rad + Raw agreed to not reveal parts of their identity at this time where employment could be jeopardized. If you would like to provide assistance or opportunities for these great humans, please contact us for their information*  

Long before Premier Doug Ford’s announcement regarding non essential businesses to be shut down, COVID 19 was already serving an inhospitable bill to hospitality workers. 

Beth, a 60-year-old Toronto busser who has been in the industry for over 20 years, noticed traffic taking a non contagious turn in the beginning of February. She felt uneasy when her regular patrons were not showing up for their night out, which led to the restaurant slowly relying on skeleton personnel. “It’s no secret that staff from front to back rely heavily on tips as their main source of income,” stated Beth. “$12-14 an hour just doesn’t cut it, regardless how many hours one works in a week.” 

The empty seats were just the start. Beth’s establishment decided to close with no services such as takeout being provided to the public. Even if delivery was an option, Beth’s age and the physical demands of the job would leave her contemplating her health to provide for the family. She, like many Canadians, are waiting for EI, but with an overloaded system of applications, the near future of no funds will have her turn for assistance such as the food bank. 

There are also still unanswered questions developing as to if EI will be enough when it only dusts 55% of their income or what will happen to those that don’t qualify at all? 

This was what was running through the minds of Louise, a jobless father of two by day and serving assistant by night. Louise’s rent is $2,000 per month, which puts great pressure and fear for how his financial situation will play out in the long run. Even though he qualifies for the Emergency Benefit Plan, it will only approximately pay out $1,800 per month. “As a man supporting a family on hospitality wages, it has detrimental and psychological effects,” stated Louise. “I hope that the government will be able to push to help all businesses in the hospitality industry and meet the needs of the workers.” 

Being a single earner too can be just as detrimental for those like Rudka and Lorenz, who are studying Hospitality at Centennial College. During this crisis, Rudka’s family back home in Punjab, India, has had to send money for groceries and rent that they themselves do not have. She is planning the possibility to return to her motherland if funds become exhausted and opportunities are cut too short. However, this is not only hellish financially, but it’s mentally draining for individuals similar to Lorenz.  He finds self isolation a time where mood disorders are in overdrive and you can pick up negative habits such as overthinking. The common thread between both of them is the heartache of loneliness when you’re by yourself in a country that is not familiar. 

Toronto is the home to over 27.5 million visitors annually. Hospitality services are an epoch-making part of the city, as without them your overall foodie experience wouldn’t be the same. While your plate may not be needed to be taken away during this crisis, their livelihood is.

Interview & written by: Sadie Kromm

Banner: Flickr

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