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B.C. restaurants that show commitment to safety will win back staff, customers: union

Last Updated May 16, 2020 at 11:12 am PDT

B.C. restaurants are among the sectors seeing some of its staff to return to work in June. (Courtesy Restaurants Canada)

Figuring out how to serve food while physically distancing will take practice, time for training required: union

Unite Here Local 40 says eateries that show commitment to guidelines are likely to succeed in winning back customers

The union representing hospitality workers says it will be monitoring conditions, filing complaints if necessary

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Servers may be wearing masks, there will be no salt and pepper shakers on tabletops, diners will be topping up their own water glasses, and “traditional menus” will no longer be circulated amongst customers.

The list of requirements for restaurants that want to reopen on May 19 is lengthy and specific.

The union that represents hospitality workers is optimistic that restaurants and bars can get customers to dine in again if employers properly follow the Worksafe BC guidelines.

Kevin Malone with Unite Here Local 40 says figuring out how to serve food and drinks while physically distancing will take practice, and wants eateries to take time for test-runs.

“We think the guidelines could go a little further in some areas–highlighting training and orientation for when you bring staff back,” he explains.

“We want the employers to be training people and having people prepare for this before their first day. We’d rather have people try some of these things out and be trained so they’re learning before day one, not coming in and being trained on the job.”

Union members tell Malone their biggest concern about returning to work is their health.

“That’s the biggest thing our union is hearing from our members, ‘I want to make sure I’m safe when I’m going back to work'” he says.

“As the union, we’re going to be making sure that we’re holding employers accountable to this because it’s not just the workers, it is the general public that we want to keep safe. And if we have to we’ll make sure the complaints process through WorkSafe BC is being used to protect the workers and the general public.”

He expects the number of people who will return to work right away will be small to start because of limits on the number of customers actually allowed in restaurants and bars.

“You’re going to see a reduction in tables and a reduction in people going,” he says.

Overall he thinks the best chance businesses have of getting back on track is showing that they are adapting to prioritize health and safety.

“The restaurants that are going to be most successful are the ones who put in the best health and safety plans. I think that’s going to help relieve anxiety of customers wanting to go out,” he says.

“I think the employers that take this the most seriously and inform the public of what they’re doing, and follow through with the guidelines –not just putting them down on paper– are probably going to have the highest chances of bringing any sort of business back. If they’re taking care of their workers that means they’re more than likely taking care of their customers, and that will make people feel safe.”

Any business that wants to reopen has to complete a COVID-19 safety plan.

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