MORE than 50 former and current employees of wellness company Tiber River Naturals have taken to social media to allege it operates a hostile, even abusive, working environment.

Via an anonymous Instagram page (titled "Not My Tiber"), they claim the company breaks labour laws and treats staff poorly.

Tiber River, which sells handmade skincare products and offers esthetician services out of storefronts in Winnipeg, also took to social media to defend itself.

In a statement posted to the company’s Instagram account Tuesday evening, Tiber River said it has consulted a human resources firm to immediately conduct an independent workplace assessment, among other measures it is taking to address complaints.

Multiple former employees the Free Press spoke to claim the company withholds owed wages and tips, doesn’t pay overtime, and forces employees to work corporate events unpaid, among other, more personal grievances.

One former storefront employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said she often worked nine-hour days without being given a paid break or overtime pay. She could eat lunch, but only while crouched under the front till’s counter.

"From the outside, it’s a very welcoming environment — you really want to be a part of that," the woman said of the company that touts concepts of self-care and wellness for customers.

"But on the inside, the work culture is so toxic. They have caused so much heartache."

One former storefront manager said she was fired after just three months on the job, after she raised concerns of toxic behaviour by a higher-up. Speaking to the Free Press, the woman said many of the issues stemmed from overzealous management on the corporate end.

"We have been so disheartened and sorry to hear that not everyone’s experience has lived up to what we set out to create," a statement signed by Tiber River co-owners Adriana De Luca and Michelle Lalonde reads.

The company said it has appointed a new chief operating officer to manage day-to-day operations and interface between managers, owners and staff. It also said it will add a human resource capacity to its team and act upon "further recommendations resulting from the workplace assessment" by the HR firm.

In an email Wednesday to the Free Press, new COO Blayne Todd said Tiber River Naturals Inc. has had no investigations or rulings issued by the labour board over the past 16 years. He did note there were three official complaints since 2007: two found in favour of employees, one for the company.

The Tiber River social media push follows other similar online calls for change at companies and organizations in Winnipeg.

In late 2018, a flurry of allegations of unfair labour practices and sexual harassment claims surrounded restaurant chain Stella’s. The company hired an HR consultant. Some staff, singled out by former employees as abusive, were let go. Staff at one location unionized, and later went on strike, before the location was closed.

In 2020, reports of workplace discrimination and censorship at Canadian Museum for Human Rights led to a shakeup at the national museum.

This year, a social media campaign against alleged insensitivity toward the cultural and spiritual needs of its Indigenous clients led to the resignation of Siloam Mission chief executive officer Jim Bell.

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera
Multimedia producer

Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.

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