|Ex-Christy Clark telephone interviewer Rich MacMillan - 24 hours photo|
|Christy Clark contractor Dimitri Pantazopoulous & Prime Minister Stephen Harper|
EXCLUSIVE - Thursday February 24, 2011
By BILL TIELEMAN, QMI AGENCY/24 hours Vancouver
A telephone interviewer for the Christy Clark B.C. Liberal leadership campaign says he was fired immediately after complaining about the low wages being paid.
And the fired phoner is angry that despite Clark calling for increased B.C. minimum wages, his $9.00 an hour salary was lower than the $10.25 minimum wage in Ontario, where the firm who hired him to call for Clark is based.
Rich MacMillan told 24 hours in an exclusive interview that he questioned the $9.00 an hour pay at a meeting with other interviewers and a supervisor for Clark campaign contractor Praxicus Public Strategies and was terminated the next day by email.
MacMillan said the supervisor told phoners that workplace changes were coming because “Dimitri our boss needs to feed his family” – referring to Ottawa-based Praxicus owner Dimitri Pantazopoulos, who hired MacMillan by email in December.
“Yeah, is Dimitri trying to feed them on $9 an hour?” MacMillan asked the supervisor in response.
But in an email, Pantazopoulos strongly rejects MacMillan’s claims.
“Nobody has been terminated from this office for reasons related to disputes related to salary levels,” Pantazopoulos wrote, adding that: “All decisions related to staffing are at the SOLE discretion of Praxicus and not the Christy Clark Campaign."
Clark’s campaign declined an interview despite email and telephone requests.
MacMillan said he worked four weeks without any complaints on the Clark campaign phoning B.C. Liberal members and lapsed members to gain supporters before the sudden firing and had been told he would work through to the February 26 leadership vote.
MacMillan said he would have been paid $1.25 an hour more if he was working in Ontario, where the minimum wage is $10.25 an hour. B.C.’s minimum wage is $8 an hour and has not gone up in 10 years.
“The fact is that it’s a $1.25 difference and we’ve got someone [Clark] saying ‘Families First’ – that’s disingenuous,” MacMillan said. “I feel the wool is being pulled over our eyes.”
Clark has also vowed to scrap the lower $6 training wage for inexperienced workers but no one hired by Praxicus is being paid that rate, Pantazopoulos wrote, “including in situations where the training wage could be paid.”
B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said Clark is “hypocritical” for not practicing what she preaches.
“It’s hypocrisy for Christy Clark to say ‘we’re going to raise the minimum wage then turning around and paying her own workers only $9 an hour,” Sinclair said Wednesday. “B.C. has become the cheap labour zone for all of Canada, with the lowest minimum wage.
MacMillan said Clark’s claim to be a B.C. Liberal Party “outsider” calling for a “Families First” policy now rings hollow to him.
“Clark had a chance to press for a minimum wage increase in cabinet and she didn’t,” MacMillan says, referring to Clark’s years in government between 2001 and 2004 as deputy premier, education minister and minister of children and family development.
Pantazopolous has been a pollster for the federal Conservative Party and its predecessors the Canadian Alliance and Reform Party, as well as other political campaigns.
MacMillan said he met both Pantazopolous and Clark campaign manager Mike McDonald in the Seymour Street phone room.
MacMillan says McDonald told him that comments from B.C. Liberal members they were phoning were going to Clark or other senior campaign officials.
Pantazopolous said by email that: “Mike McDonald has not been involved in any way, shape or form in any hiring or firing decisions.”
But on the main issue, MacMillan has no doubt he was fired solely because of the $9.00 wage complaint.
“That’s exactly why – I had received some positive feedback and was previously told I wouldn’t be laid off or given a short shift,” he said. “I hadn’t gotten any written warnings or whatever. I thought I’d be working through February.”
MacMillan said he got the job in late December through an online Kijiji help wanted ad and was working with over 50 other interviewers.
A shorter version of this story was published in 24 hours Vancouver on Thursday.