$600 to share a bed room: Migrant employees lose their jobs after complaining about hire

Quebec’s office well being and security board has ordered a food-processing firm north of Montreal to reimburse two non permanent overseas employees for charging them extra hire.

The board instructed the corporate in July it needed to pay the employees $3,800 every in housing prices it had deducted from their paycheques since Might 2021.

The employees say that final spring, the corporate requested them to signal a contract elevating their hire from $225 to $300 per pay interval.

Quite a few the 48 non permanent overseas employees from Madagascar employed by the plant on the time initially refused to signal — and requested the corporate if it may clarify the rise.

Two employees filed complaints to the Fee des normes de l’équité de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), Quebec’s office well being and security board, after they stated the corporate would not budge.

A month and a half later, these two staff and three others who had raised questions in regards to the hire had been fired. 

“We’re having a tough time with this case in the mean time,” one of many former staff stated throughout an interview in July. “We reside in concern; we reside in anguish; we reside in uncertainty.”

CBC spoke with all 5 staff who had been fired, and has agreed to not title them as a result of they concern reprisals for talking up, and fear doing so may jeopardize their immigration standing.

A black truck with a red and white PG logo and a photo seasoned chicken sits in the parking lot in front of an industrial building.
The Plaisirs Gastronomiques food-processing plant is close to Freeway 15 in Boisbriand, a suburb north of Montreal. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Employer alleges defamation

Most of the employees reside in three-bedroom items with three or 4 different individuals and should share a bed room. CBC visited the constructing and noticed one of many items. It was clear and properly lit, however small for 5 individuals by North American requirements and the employees stated wanted repairs had gone untouched.

Three people are seen on camera without their faces being shown.
The previous Plaisirs Gastronomiques staff say they’re scared of reprisals and of how their firing will have an effect on their immigration standing in Canada. (Simon Martel/CBC)

The federal authorities requires an employer hiring overseas employees for low-wage positions to show it won’t deduct greater than 30 per cent of these wages for housing. However Quebec labour rules cap the quantity employers can cost for hire at $53.47 per week — about half of what was being taken from the staff’ paycheques.

Christophe Beauvais, the president of the corporate, Plaisirs Gastronomiques — which makes and distributes ready meals to the province’s main grocery chains — stated his understanding is that regulation doesn’t apply within the case of his staff, as a result of he was not required to supply lodging.

However in an electronic mail to CBC, a CNESST spokesperson stated the regulation concerning housing prices, Article 6, is legitimate in circumstances “when the employer ensures that lodging is supplied to the employee with out having the duty to take action.”

The labour board stated it can not touch upon particular investigations, even after a choice is made.

A drab apartment building next to an old home.
The condo constructing the place the employees share modest three-bedroom items is on a quiet road in a suburb north of Montreal. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The federal authorities instructed CBC in an electronic mail final week that “employers collaborating within the TFW Program should abide by each program necessities in addition to relevant [provincial and territorial] legal guidelines of their area.”

For many years, advocates have stated overlapping jurisdictions within the non permanent overseas employee applications can contribute to the difficulties employees face in having their rights revered.

In June, after the labour board complaints had been filed in April, the staff had been handed termination letters alleging that they had defamed their employer, with the objective of acquiring an open work allow by claiming the corporate had mistreated them.

The corporate stated it had screenshots of messages to again up its declare however didn’t present them with the employees, nor CBC, citing privateness causes.

Beauvais stated employees had been instructed the electrical energy, web, furnishings and equipment prices had been larger than it had anticipated, and that the corporate had incurred a lack of greater than $17,000.

He stated the corporate will likely be preventing the CNESST’s declare in courtroom. 

“We performed our function pretty much as good company residents to totally facilitate their integration into the nation,” Beauvais instructed CBC Information over the cellphone.

The proprietor of the condo constructing, Pier-Olivier Gratton, instructed CBC Information Plaisirs Gastronomiques rented the items 5 months earlier than employees arrived in Canada to order the house.

Quebec counting on TFW program amid shortages

The 5 employees, who’re of their early 30s and maintain graduate levels, stated the attraction of working low-wage jobs removed from dwelling was a pilot mission Quebec had simply created permitting French-speaking non permanent overseas employees in meals processing to use for everlasting residency within the province after two years.

“We got here right here to combine into Quebec society, to have the ability to reside like different Quebecers and within the hopes of integrating our household into this society and to pursue our goals — to reside in concord right here in Canada,” stated one other employee, who stated the firing had brought about him and his household again dwelling quite a lot of misery. 

“I can not sleep, I’ve insomnia. Typically, I can not eat as a result of my abdomen turns me the wrong way up each time I take into consideration this.”

Every of the employees ship a part of their earnings to Madagascar to assist assist their households.

The pilot mission is considered one of a number of designed to encourage foreigners to work in Quebec in gentle of a severe labour scarcity.

This system permits employers in Canada to rent overseas nationals to work in positions for which they battle to rent regionally. The foreigners are issued work permits tied to their employer, although the mannequin has as soon as once more come underneath scrutiny with an increase in abuses reported in the course of the  pandemic. 

“Individuals like them submitting complaints is the tip of the iceberg. Many refuse as a result of they’re afraid, and with good cause,” stated Michel Pilon, a former labour lawyer and co-founder of the Réseau d’aide aux travailleuses et travailleurs migrants agricoles du Québec (RATTMAQ), which filed the complaints on behalf of the staff. 

Beauvais, the corporate president, stated the firings had nothing to do with the labour board complaints, as a result of the identities of the complainants are confidential. 

He stated they had been over feedback the employees had made placing Plaisirs Gastronomiques’s repute at risk. He stated the corporate is now reconsidering recruiting overseas.

A hand holds a pile of pamphlets.
Michel Pilon, the co-founder of RATTMAQ, says his migrant rights group is busier than ever. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Eugénie Depatie-Pelletier, who has printed a number of research on migrant work and is the manager director of the Montreal-based Affiliation for the Rights of Family and Farm Staff, stated the reference to open work permits within the termination letter exhibits the staff knew they had been susceptible to being fired for advocating for themselves.

“The second they elevate their hand up and file a grievance, there may be greater than a danger of them being fired, it is nearly 100 per cent,” Depatie-Pelletier stated. 

She stated she has heard of different circumstances of employers accusing non permanent overseas employees of defamation, and even of stealing items, as methods of justifying terminations.

The federal authorities made it doable for non permanent overseas employees who can present they’re susceptible to being abused to use for open work permits in 2019. The permits expire after a 12 months and are non-renewable.

Pilon stated the RATTMAQ can also be submitting complaints to the CNESST for all 5 employees for unfair dismissal.

Beauvais stated he would not see an influence imbalance within the employer-tied permits due to how pricey it’s to rent non permanent overseas employees. 

He stated he meant to switch the condo leases on to the employees. Not less than one employee instructed CBC that was carried out lately and that the hire is now a complete of about $1,200 per thirty days, plus utilities.


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