Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christy Clark telephone interviewer says he was fired for complaining about low wage paid - $1.25 less than Ontario minimum wage - despite Clark promise to increase BC minimum pay

Ex-Christy Clark telephone interviewer Rich MacMillan - 24 hours photo

Christy Clark contractor Dimitri Pantazopoulous & Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Christy Clark campaign telephone worker says he was fired for complaining about low wages while Clark promises higher minimum wage;  "Families First" slogan now rings hollow, worker says, but employer rejects allegations

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.



Anonymous said...

THAT'LL get her the Big-business vote...


Anonymous said...

Ain't gonna work on Christy's farm no more
Ain't gonna work on Christy's farm no more
She hands you a nickel
Hands you a dime
She asks you if the seams on her toga are in line
She's the woman minding Gordon Campbell's store
Ain't gonna work on Christy's farm no more...

Anonymous said...

Well BC people there we go, we will just trade one tyrant for another. That guy hasn't yet learned. What the BC Liberals say, and what they do, are two entirely different matters. Campbell's election lie, the BCR wasn't for sale. The election lie, the HST wasn't on his and Hansen's radar. The last thing you do, is believe anything the BC Liberals say. They are able to look you in the eye and lie. And, that we have seen plenty of. I watched Campbell being interviewed on TV. I was amazed by his blatant lies. The media was disgraceful, there was not one question, regarding Campbell's lies and corruption. The Liberal candidates, are all tainted by Campbell. They are all Campbell clones. So everyone had better be aware, the lies will continue.

Anonymous said...

I can his dilemma, but if you look at him, he's obviously not too apperciative of getting a wage.

Clark could have shown an example, but why people insist on getting paid for in party volunteering for phone canvassing is beyond comprehension.

Even the NDP in the bad old days did not pay volunteers. Everyone voluneteered because they were dedicated to the cause.

Many times I've done far more complex and intensive campaign voluntering in all types of weather from sunny and hot to cold and rainy. Not once did I ever get paid, not even expenses taken care of.

If he didn't like what he was getting paid for, he didn't need to be there. He could move on to work at a real job.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 10:24AM this is not volunteer work we're talking about here. This is marketing work outsourced to a telemarketing company. These telemarketing companies employ a lot of young people at very low wages.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 10:24AM this is not volunteer work we're talking about here. This is marketing work outsourced to a telemarketing company. These telemarketing companies employ a lot of young people at very low wages.

It is political marketing and should be volunteer. In the past it was ALL volunteer even during the NDP's leadership which led to Bob Skelly Winning, and I'm sure there were many volunteers working Mike Harcourt's and later on Glen Clark's phone rooms.

The migration to paid work began as a result of one thing only.

The biggest problem is many whine and complain, and yet do not get involved. The end result? The campaigns have to use telemarketing firms using paid labour.

The result of that? Nine to Ten dollar an hour help which means the people working don't really care about what is going on, they just want to make it through the phone calls to get paid.

Big difference if you're a volunteer who wants your guy to win.