It’s not time to break bread, at least for previous Willie’s Cafe and Bakery employee, Rebecca Zareian.
Zareian worked for B.C.’s oldest bakery in Victoria B.C., which closed abruptly on Sept. 5, as a full-time server for nearly a year. Due to staff shortages, she was working six or seven days per week and then requested time off for the Labour Day long weekend.
“I came back and there’s an email from Joyce, the owner’s wife, that my record of employment and paycheque were ready to be picked up,” Zareian said. “I texted another girl, and she said ‘Joyce didn’t tell you? After shift she shut down indefinitely.’”
Zareian said when she went in to pick up her paycheque she spoke briefly with Joyce Hou, who has owned the bakery with her husband, Lei, for over four years.
“When I went to go pick it up, she went into tears, mostly because her husband is very sick,” Zareian said, adding that Hou did not offer a reason for the short notice. “I didn’t want to open up my paycheque in front of her, that would be rude. But I took it and my record of employment home, and looked at it and there was no severance pay.”
Zareian said none of the other employees received severance either. She tried to contact Hou several times about this, but couldn’t get a hold of her. She has since put in a complaint with B.C. Employment Standards.
In the past year, things have been tough for staff at the bakery.
The Hous took in a third business partner, and began many renovations to upgrade the restaurant. But disagreements in spending resulted in a messy severance from the new partner, the chef and several servers.
Zareian said that the Hous were good people, and that she believed in the business so she stayed when others left. Now, she doesn’t understand the approach the owners took.
“I’m really upset that we didn’t get any notice. I could have looked for a new job instead of just hearing about it when asking about my schedule.”
Now that school has started and the tourism season is coming to a close, Zariean is having a hard time finding a job. So far she has only been able to find a part-time position in downtown Victoria, and is considering moving back to her hometown, Calgary.
“I just signed a year-long lease, and Joyce was my reference guaranteeing my income,” Zareian said. “If I don’t find a job in the next three days then I have no choice but to tell my landlord about the situation, and that I have to go.”
Since its closure, the bakery has switched its status from permanently closed to open on Google, but not on their Facebook page. The store itself remains closed.
Joyce Hou was contacted by The News but she did not want to provide a comment.