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News brief: Smiling Goat worker fired, wages still owed

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As if owing workers’ wages and not living up to the terms of a collective agreement isn’t messy enough, now Kit Singh, the owner of six Smiling Goat cafes in Halifax, is accused of firing a worker for speaking out about not getting paid.

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“On April 1st I confronted our boss about not getting paid. At a later meeting he told me that he would pay me that night, and also that he would dismiss me,” Keith Karding told a group of 30 colleagues and supporters who this afternoon rallied in protest at the Lower Water Street Smiling Goat cafe.  

“He said he would make up a reason later. The reason he came up with was corporate restructuring. But from the context of the incident it was quite clear that I was fired for participating in union activity, for picketing his business, and for demanding my pay,” said Karding.

Unpaid wages remains a problem, workers say. Singh has paid some of the money he owed workers, but pay cheques continue to bounce and payments continue to be incomplete.

“These pay cheques are our lives, they’re the food we eat, they’re the bills we pay, they’re our homes. We are sick of the constant stalling,” said Hannah, one of the affected workers. “He is constantly trying to buy time, by trying to confuse us or distract us, and there is always someone other than himself to blame. For months he has been asking us to give him just a little more time. But time is up.”

Workers of two of the Smiling Goat cafes, formerly owned by Just Us! Coffee, have been unionized for years now. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2 is confident that four other cafes owned by Singh will also be unionized once the results of a recent vote are announced.

After today’s rally workers marched to the Labour Board offices in Summit Place just up the road to file a complaint about the firing of Karding.  

On April 11 and 12 workers from the former Just Us! sites who are owed money will testify about outstanding wages at a Labour Board hearing to deal with their complaint.

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