08 June 2007

Kudos to Dara Fresco and friends

Earlier this week, Dara Fresco, a head teller with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, launched a $600-million class-action lawsuit against her employer. Ms. Fresco launched the suit on behalf of 10,000 of her colleagues who regularly work overtime for which they aren't paid.

And it's about time. Statistics Canada reports that over 1.6 million Canadians worked unpaid overtime in April. Almost a quarter of the work force regularly puts in over eight hours a day but only ten per cent gets paid for it.

Employees are protected against unpaid overtime by labour laws, but it isn't difficult to have them "volunteer" for overtime when employers can hold promotions, raises, or even just keeping their jobs, over their heads. And a round of layoffs, real or threatened, is often enough to whip recalcitrant employees into line.

And why wouldn't employers take advantage? Keeping costs down and profits up is the name of the capitalist game. Without the occasional swift kick, employers will push their advantage to the limit. Ms. Fresco's courageous suit may just deliver the kick business seems in need of at the moment. Similar suits in the U.S. have squeezed huge retroactive overtime payments to employees out of a number of companies including $78-million out of Wal-Mart's Pennsylvania stores.

Incidentally, after ten years with the bank, Dara was making the princessly sum of $30,715 a year. She claims she is owed $50,000 for unpaid overtime. She deserves every penny. Plus interest, of course -- at the bank's top mortgage rate.

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