A group of temporary foreign workers have filed a class-action lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against Mac’s Convenience Stores and three recruitment agencies.
They allege they were promised work in Canada, but were left homeless.
“It’s heartbreaking; it’s heartbreaking when you hear their stories.”
That, from Lawyer Carmela Allevato, who says several foreign workers recruited in Dubai paid $8,000 and covered their own transportation costs to come and work for Mac’s Convenience stores in Western Canada.
“When they came here, for many of them there was no work, or if there was work, it was not in the location they were permitted to work in under the Temporary Foreign Worker program. The conditions that they found themselves in were really inappropriate. Many of them ended up homeless, some of them were put to work in places where they were not supposed to be and given to understand that that was legal and it wasn’t. It’s been very difficult for these folks.”
One worker claims in the lawsuit that he was forced to sleep on the floor and had little food to eat after being sent to Kitimat.
Company denies wrongdoing
But one of the Surrey-based recruitment firms named in the suit, Overseas Immigration Services, denies any wrongdoing.
Director Kuldeep Kumar Bansal claims the foreign workers demanded to work in BC, when their work permits only stipulated specific Mac’s locations in Alberta.
“These workers, when they realized Alberta is not offering permanent residence to workers once the rules changed, they say we don’t want to go to Alberta because we can’t apply for permanent residence. But we can’t hire you in British Columbia, because your LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) , your working permit, is for Alberta.”
And he says even then, they’ve had trouble finding work because they were inflexible.
“They will come for the training in British Columbia. Some of the foreign workers, maybe four or five out of 200, don’t want to go to the Interior, they want to stay in Vancouver. Those are the ones complaining, ‘Oh, we don’t have a job.’ So if they don’t want to go to Kitimat or Smithers, that is not Mac’s fault.”
Bansal also claims Mac’s did their own overseas recruiting, and his company only did the documentation.
However, the company’s website says they do much more than that:
“We assist you in selection, filing labor market opinion, application process at Canadian Consulate abroad and getting YOUR future employees ready to work for you once in Canada. As we are currently working with many types of clients from many diverse industries we always have a selection of workers who are available within shorter time frames.”
None of the allegations has been proven in court and a statement of defence has not been filed.