Canadian restaurant staff face anger, abuse and racism when enforcing coronavirus vaccination policies

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

Posted on Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 11:42 a.m. EDT

Last updated Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 11:42 a.m. EDT

HALIFAX – When a proof of vaccination policy was announced, Juliana Murphy knew this would be another burden she would face at work.

“Adult men yelled at me and threw their fists up just because of the contact tracing,” says the waitress at a breakfast restaurant in Halifax. “I knew asking them to show me proof of their COVID-19 injections would be worse. “

Vaccine passports are becoming the latest challenge for restaurant workers in Canada as many face verbal abuse, sexual harassment and racism from customers.

Staff at restaurants across the country say that while most customers are respectful of the new vaccine requirements, others are argumentative and angry.

They describe a work environment where they are regularly grilled about COVID-19 vaccine certification policies, with a small number of customers becoming belligerent and intimidating.

They describe the extra work of enforcing COVID-19 restrictions as exhausting and stressful.

In response, some restaurateurs have hired security guards to review vaccination records and identification before allowing customers to sit at a table.

But in most cases, the blame lies with frontline staff – a largely young, part-time, low-wage workforce that is already strained by a labor shortage. industry wide.

“A lot of the hosts who work in downtown restaurants are young women and it’s a little scary for them to jump in the front door,” says Sean Bridge, part-time waiter, bartender and host at Toronto. (The restaurants where Bridge and Murphy work are not named to prevent them from being targeted by anti-vaccination efforts.)

“You can have a really… arrogant crowd here,” says Bridge. “I hate that the responsibility for enforcing these rules rests with the restaurant staff. “

For an industry hard hit by pandemic public health measures, vaccine passport rules have been another blow to bars and restaurants.

As they strive to stay open and do their best to uphold vaccine mandates, the restrictions have further increased staff workloads and hurt sales, according to an industry group.

Restaurants Canada found in a recent survey that more than half of restaurant owners say their employees have faced hostile confrontations from people opposed to the new rules.

The survey also found that 20 percent of restaurants have lost staff and more than 60 percent say they need to hire more workers.

“These are restrictions on top of the restrictions,” said Todd Barclay, President and CEO of Restaurants Canada. “Implementation takes a lot of work and time… restaurants are wasting money. “

The industry group says restaurants should be compensated for the cost of enforcing vaccination warrants, which would help them hire more workers. He also calls for capacity and distancing restrictions to be lifted now that vaccine requirements are enforced.

Yet frontline restaurant workers suggest that some customers may be tampering with immunization records.

“I overheard a table later that evening saying that they had tampered with their documents,” says Bridge. “I had looked at their fakes, and there is no way to tell they were fake.”

On the flip side, he says he almost banned someone who had the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from entering the restaurant because he didn’t realize he shouldn’t. only one dose to be fully immunized.

“We’re trying to enforce these rules, but we haven’t had any training,” says Bridge. “It’s a really uncomfortable situation to be in.”

In Halifax, Murphy says his restaurant did not provide any training but left a brochure at reception about the proof of vaccine policy that staff can use as a guideline.

“The hardest part is that the immunization records are different for each province,” she says. “It takes a while to check and some customers get annoyed. They really believe that the restaurant is imposing that.

The waitress says that while young, old and women tend to be understanding, she has had multiple hostile interactions with middle-aged men.

“Some of them seem to take this opportunity to be racist,” she said. “I have noticed several times that some customers give our Syrian and Indian employees much more trouble. They get really angry when they ask for their proof of vaccines. “

Murphy says she is doing her best to help defuse these situations, but the amount of money she is making has gone down.

“By the time they walk through the front door to my table, they’re already in this horrible mood and complaining about things that have nothing to do with our restaurant service or the quality. They have already made the decision to tip less.


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