International Hospitality Proffesionals

Joined Feb 25, 2018
Hello all. New to this site and been a chef for 20 years. Only in Canada. Throughout Winnipeg and Toronto' GTA. I have seen many trials and tribulations throughout my career. I'm 36 now and switched careers at 32. I am now an electrician. In my trade and most all other trades I have learned about the unions and collective agreements that protect the workers and employers. The general system that a union uses is definetly an asset to workers. As I read all of these posts about everyone troubles throughout the industry I understand why things are the way they are. I want to take a minute to applaud all of you chefs and hospitality professionals for continuing your passion within the Industry. I regret my decision to become a electrician as I don't really enjoy it. I dream of the Industry on a regular basis and the Industry has formed me into the man I am today. I worked my ass off in a kitchen for 40 thoisand a year. 70 hours a week. This has become induatry standard it seems through salaried pay. Throughout the past 10 years the Induatry has exploded and there is need for a change. I have done my resarch and had many conversations to underatand what is involved in forming a union. A question is to all chefs and hospitality workers worldwide, throughout the history of the world in the grand scheme of things. Professional kitchens have only been around for 100 years don' we think it' time for our Industry to be regulated with safety and mentors throughout apprentiship? If I told you there was a way to get better pay and overall better quality if life.. all of this is possible.. any suggestions or questions
Joined Oct 1, 2006
Welcome to Cheftalk Chef_Cam,

Interesting introductory topic there chef! (You may want to make a change in title from "Proffesionals to "Professionals")

Just my opinion.

Well, Chef_Cam is sure a fan of unions! Sorry I can't join you...

I would much rather put my skills and effort directly up against another cook for who gets paid more, rather than have seniority determine who gets paid more. I think unions are more favorable for the less productive worker and less desirable for the most productive people on any given shift, getting paid the exact same wage. Never a fan of taking up the slack for someone making the same as I do, even though they can't keep up.

Interesting how culinary school diplomas seem to mirror my opinion about unions. Some graduates are dynamite and some are duds even though they have the exact same training and exact same piece of paper. Just don't like the concept of hiring some people from each category and paying them the same.
Joined Jan 17, 2015
I have been in kitchens for 25 years and seen all sort of abuse, exploitation and unsafe, unfair and unsavoury behaviour. There will always be people saying how unions stand in the way of progress and how unions protect less productive workers. It is BS, how about those who work hard but don't speak the language, those that get paid pittance because they can't stand up for themselves? I was on the receiving end of behaviour like this and let me tell you it is not great. How about improving unions rather then dismissing them? People have fought hard in the past for workers rights which we seem to have gave up on. It is our fault, mine included. Why did we except working 70 hours for a pittance, how did we get here? Workers need protecting, no doubt about it, unions might have to be updated, improved yes but without them we would be exploited much more and it is sad that we can't see it.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Hi Chef Cam,

You have it wrong. Unions in the hospitality industry in Canada exist, just about every hotel chain has 'em, as do the large catering co.s, and institutions like hospitals. But they (hospitality unions) don't do anything, useful as an ashtray on a Harley. But then, an ashtray on a Harley--other than looking stupid--doesn't do any harm, unions do.

The unions in the hospitality industry only exist to garnishee pay checks, they won't even represent you until after a 3-6 mth " probation period". Think about this, would you buy an insurance policy if they woul only cover you after paying after 6 mths? The unions are required by law to issue their members with an audited financial statement every year to show what's happening with their money, they don't do this. Never have, never will.

In regards to work place safety and pay issues, ever Canadian has the provincial labour board and worker's compensation on their side. These gov't bodies are far more powerful and far more faster to resolve issues than any hospitality Union.

Unions and management don't mix. In just about any industry management will work over the required 40 hrs/ week, with many working 70-90 hrs in trades like architecture, law, you name it.

I really want to continue this conversation with you, but unions in the hospitality industry are what is holding us back.
Joined Jan 17, 2015
You are looking at this from the EMPLOYER point of view and unions are not there to protect you but to protect workers from unfair employers. Same as middle class and well of people don't like free health care because they CAN pay. How abuit the dirt poor? And by the way architects and lawyers make a bit more then chefs so comparison is not really fair
Joined Mar 1, 2017
Historically speaking, in the US, unions were formed to protect workers from unfair and unsafe business practices and to create job and wage security. However, this was a time when most states and the Federal Government did not have labor laws or other measures in place to protect the employee.

As the years went by and the state and federal labor laws became more effective, the need for unions has waned considerably. A good example is the US auto industry. Unions were so effective at developing high wages and great benefits for its members, the auto industry nearly collapsed a few years ago trying to pay those wages and benefits. Billions in bailouts were given to the auto industry in order to prevent the collapse.

So, how would collective bargaining impact the food service industry? Higher wages? Health and retirement benefits? Safer and better working conditions? Job security? All of the above? Someone has to pay for that, right? Unlike the auto industry, the profit margins in the food industry are 10-15% on a great day. Once those profit margins disappear, the business folds and there won't be any government bailout money to save the industry. Its simple math really.

The real questions that very few employees think to ask and even fewer still know the answers to are: a) can the restaurant accommodate such an increase in overhead?; and b) if yes, how?

The first answer is by transferring some of the increase in overhead to the consumer. But, that will not resolve the problem in its entirety. After all, customers are willing to only pay so much for a plate of pasta.

However, the bulk of the increase in overhead would have to be covered through changes in labor costs which typically represents the largest percentage of any restaurant's overhead. An increase in employee compensation across the board means fewer employees. That means layoffs. The employees that remain will be required to take up the slack. That also means fewer hours. So, those that remain will be required to do more and do it in fewer hours. Try to imagine how that would play out in a busy commercial kitchen.

Then there is the impact it would have on the FOH, especially wait staff. Currently, tips make up quite a bit of a server's salary. Those tips tend to disappear when the public knows the server is making a substantial hourly wage. Servers in Seattle are learning this reality with great pain. This also means the servers can no longer decide how much of their income they report to the IRS. That means more in taxes. The net result is less money per month despite the fact they are making more per hour.

As an owner, we deal in staffing not so much as having enough people to do the work. Instead, we look at it as "how much will it cost per shift to get the work done." If I am forced to make that choice in my restaurant, I am always going to favor the FOH. Why? Because that is where the metal meets the meat. In the restaurant business, if guests are not being waiting on or tended to, they leave and do not come back. Therefore, I am going to make sure the FOH is properly staffed and if that means the line cooks have to take turns doubling as dish washers and the chef has to work the line during rush, so be it.

Then there is the issue of wage scaling. For example, let's say the executive chef earns a salary of $45,000 per year plus retirement and medical. Suddenly, the union came along and now the line cook is making 45,000/year plus retirement and medical. What should the executive chef's salary be now? $80,000/year plus benefits? The cost of providing such salaries is far beyond the reach of the average restaurant. Perhaps maybe in large hotels, large corporate restaurant chains or cruise ships. But, definitely not in privately owned restaurants. The profit margins are just not there. If the profit margins were 40% like they are in retail, unions would've probably happened a long time ago.
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Joined Oct 10, 2005

The o.p. Is a Canuck, and so am I. Canucks have healthcare. My opinions on hospitality unions were formed when I was a dishwasher and then cook. I will not let anyone steal from my paycheque.
Joined Jun 25, 2017
Professional kitchens have only been around for 100 years don' we think it' time for our Industry to be regulated with safety and mentors throughout apprentiship? If I told you there was a way to get better pay and overall better quality if life.. all of this is possible.. any suggestions or questions

I have been fortunate in most of my career to work for "pro employee" organizations. Places that paid me a decent wage and offered benefits. I made decisions to work in those places. As a manager now, I only work for organizations that take care of their employees. It's simply good for business. J.W. Marriott said "take care of the employees and they will take care of the guests." I work for a small (less than $2 mil a year in revenue) member owned country club. As the Chef, I am very content with my compensation package and quality of life. I am driven to work harder because of that. My employees feel the same. Our state requires mandatory food safety training and all employees are protected in the workplace by OSHA. When new employees start I offer a training program that covers multiple topics. My question to the O.P. is what could a Union offer? Why would I have money taken out of my paycheck to offer me a better quality of life, why wouldn't I just go to the restaurant down the street that does it better?

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