Liberty Assisted Living is a Toronto based corporation with interests in retirement homes across Ontario. Employees at the La Chaumiere retirement home in Puce, Ontario are facing a desperate situation as the company was allegedly violating employment standards by refusing to pay wages and refusing to forward on employee contributions to pension and health benefits plans. The company has a long history of ignoring Orders from the Ministry of Labour and owes hundred of thousands in back taxes to the municipal government.
Incredibly Gregory Goutis, a company official, claimed today that the underlying issue is the profitability of the residence, stating that "La Chaumiere does have profitability issues" and that the company is in discussions with the Canadian Auto Workers Local 2458 to address ways "to allow us to get through these tough times". Essentially, Mr. Goutis is blaming the workers and their union for the situation at La Chaumiere; however, if one digs deeper it becomes apparent that the vast majority of employees are low-wage healthcare workers struggling to make ends meet. Long time employee Lynne Pelletier remarked that "We have families and girls that are single parents that can't even buy their kids Christmas gifts...We come to work every day, we're human beings, just pay us."
Luckily in this case the employees are represented by a union that has the resources to seek recourse through the Courts, but in thousands of cases every year employees are left high and dry while their employers make off with wages, money for benefits, and other entitlements. The situation at La Chaumiere is a good example of how the regulatory efforts of government are simply not responsive to the realities facing today's workers and how the current statutory regime governing workplaces simply fails to protect the interests of employees in many cases. It's incumbent on public policy makers to begin to address and remedy this situation or I'm afraid that cases like La Chaumiere will become the norm rather then the exception.