Students of Brock University are left with one less place to work, hangout and study with the closure of Coffee Culture on St. Paul Street. The small cafe closed its doors for the last time at midnight on July 25, 2017, leaving some students without their regular place to get a cup of coffee, while others are left without employment altogether.
Majority of the staff consisted of Brock students and the closure not only leaves them without a source of income, as they search to find replacement jobs, but no immediate timeline for severance pay and compensation for money owed.
“I’m out of a job now,” Katherine Pearson, a former employee of Coffee Culture and current Brock student, says. “So having no notice to try and find something to substitute what I’ve lost now has probably been the biggest impact on me.”
Most of the staff had been notified the day of the closure by text messages sent from the franchise owner, Tyler Miedema, who offered apologies and condolences but no answers. There was no guarantee of compensation for money owed, and only a promise that he was attempting to resolve the issues that were currently stalling operations. He even suggested that he was, “working with Coffee Culture head office to continue operations.”
Despite the rumour of a possible reopening in the future, the staff is not holding out hope.
“I guess it was really solidified that it had closed down when we saw the signs being taken down the next day,” Pearson says. “We only received one more message saying our ROA’s were coming in.” Other than that, Pearson says employees have not had contact with the owner, who is currently out of the province, deployed with the Canadian Forces.
The reasons for the closure are currently unclear.
Coffee Culture, beyond being a place of employment for Brock students, has also been a popular location for many students to hangout, due in part to its long hours of operation, student discounts for both Brock and Niagara College students and its location in front of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. While there are still active cafes around the downtown core that provide coffee options, the loss of Coffee Culture will have an affect on the Brock community overall, most notably for students who attend class at the downtown campus.
Joshua Tyson, a Dramatic Arts student and past frequenter of Coffee Culture, echoes these sentiments. “When I heard Coffee Culture closed, I was honestly really disappointed. It was so close to the Marilyn I could run up and grab something between classes, and it was a great place to get work done. It’s unfortunate it’s gone, and I know I speak for a lot of Marilyn students when I say that it will be missed.”
Part-time jobs are just one of the realities of being a university student. With tuition, housing, books and food to purchase, many students don’t have much of a choice about whether they work during the school year or not. Despite Coffee Culture’s closure, many students won’t have to deal with a lot of issues aside from class and work hour conflicts. If any larger issues do come up however, students and other part-time employees should be aware of their rights.
Under the Employment Standards act of Ontario, workers are guaranteed certain rights. Included right in the act, it states that no worker is able to give up those rights, including the right to receive overtime pay or extra pay for statutory holidays.
The act includes the minimum wage that your employer must pay you, which is $11.40 per hour for most workers and $9.90 for liquor servers. As of October 1, both of those rates will increase by 20 cents. As of June 10 2016, the ESA also covers tipping. The Act states that your employer cannot deduct your tips from your pay cheque or for things like breaking dishes or spilled drinks.
As for the amount of time your employer can ask you to work, when it comes to a single day the rules are a little hazy. However, when it comes to weekly work hours, your employer cannot, according to the act, ask you to work longer than 48 hours without signing a written waiver. As for hours off per day, your employer should provide you with at least 11 consecutive hours of rest each day. This rule does not apply to employees who are ‘on call’ and are called in during their rest period. Overtime pay must be paid if an employee works more than 44 hours in a week.
When it comes to termination, a business closing as Coffee Culture did is outside of the norm. Normally, when an employer chooses termination “the employer must provide the employee with either written notice of termination, termination pay or a combination (as long as the notice and the number of weeks of termination pay together equal the length of notice the employee is entitled to receive),” according to the act.
Students should note that according to the ESA website, the rules do not apply to “Individuals performing work under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology or university,” which indicates co-op students. For more information on the rights of co-op students, speak to your program director.