15 & Change: Grading retail workplaces

By Daniel Tseghay

Retail workers are some of the most precarious, lowest paid, and mistreated employees. Few are unionized and current employment standards leave many unprotected, as Rankandfile.ca detailed recently. 15change

But while the push for legislative changes to protect workers continues, Vancouver Island’s Retail Action Network (RAN) has launched a project, $15&Change: Rate Your Employer, that might help workers in Victoria navigate the industry. It’s a grading system where retail workers can rate their current or former workplace (those they’ve worked at within the last 6 months) based on its treatment of its employees.

RAN grades employers, on a simple pass/fail basis, in six categories: Living Wages, Mandatory Benefits, Fair Scheduling, Safer Workspaces, Reasonable Expectations, and Workplace Justice.

“Employers can be rated based on what they’re paid, how far in advance they get their schedule, if they’re respected in the workplace, how tips are distributed,” says Sarah Graham, an organizer with RAN, in an interview with Rankandfile.ca.

For the Living Wages category, RAN asks workers if their wages are at least $15/hour and if they are paid for all of their overtime work, among other questions. The Reasonable Expectations category asks if workers are receiving adequate paid breaks, job training, and if there are clear job expectations subject to a disciplinary process. The Fair Scheduling category asks if workers are receiving schedules a minimum of 2 weeks in advance, if they are paid for at least 4 hours for every scheduled shift, and if hours are ever cut by managers as a form of punishment, among other questions. This category is particularly relevant for retail workers, according to Graham. “A common practice in Victoria and, from what we understand, beyond, is to just schedule workers on-call and give them a call up to even half an hour in advance,” says Graham. “It’s hard to plan your life. You also don’t know how much money you’ll be making.”

RAN hopes that this not only helps workers identify workplaces they might want to avoid but also puts pressures on employers to improve workplaces. “A huge part of it is putting pressure on the employers,” says Graham. “Especially places that market themselves as locally sourced and sustainable but don’t necessarily treat their workers very well. We’re trying to highlight that disparity.”

 

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