SEIU Local 2 has submitted a complaint against Arterra Wines, owner of Wine Rack stores, to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for discrimination against a worker on the basis of disability. The worker, Clarke Allison, says that his store manager explicitly cited his physical disability as the reason for his negative performance review, which blocked Allison from receiving an annual wage increase.
TORONTO — Arterra Wines has a history of abusing workers’ rights. In May 2021, Arterra Wines was reprimanded by Arbitrator Randi H. Abramsky for denying the Union the ability to communicate bargaining messages to members in the store. This is an addition to an Unfair Labour Practice claim against Arterra under review by the Labour Board. Workers have been on strike since June 7th after Arterra Wines declined to implement a fair scheduling system and grant workers livable wages. Now, SEIU Local 2 has submitted a Human Rights Complaint on behalf of a Wine Rack worker who has suffered wage discrimination based on his disability.
Clarke Allison has been working for 2.5 years as a Wine Rack merchant, a role that encompasses a wide range of duties, including recommending wines to patrons, cleaning, and lifting boxes of product. Wine Rack employees are currently hired at 15 cents above minimum wage. Every wage increase in future years is dependent on a performance review score which is under the sole discretion of store managers. The employer has steadfastly opposed proposals from the Union that would enable employees to effectively appeal negative ratings.
Allison says that his negative rating was centered around the fact that he was not participating in unloading packages from trucks into the store. He says: “In my review, my Store Manager stated that I am not a team player because I am unwilling to do deliveries when scheduling requires it.”
Allison suffers from a chronic wrist injury and has documentation from medical practitioners advising him that he is to avoid lifting heavy loads.
Allison explains: “I work very hard despite my disability. I took on the role of Health and Safety representative. I pick up extra tasks like cleaning the basement and organizing the stockroom. And I still do plenty of heavy lifting, but I have to do so at my own pace. I’ve been putting so much of myself into that company only for them to use my disability against me. It’s awful.”
Allison tried to seek remedy with the Director of Operations for Arterra Wines, Stephen Murphy, who failed to ensure that the wage discrimination was rectified.
As of today, the employer has yet to return a call to resume negotiations that workers put out last Friday through the Ministry of Labour. Workers are continuing to picket stores throughout Toronto.
SEIU Local 2 represents workers in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and British Columbia.