B.C. court approves migrant workers' class-action lawsuit against Mac’s Convenience Stores
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Four workers, from Nepal and the Philippines, say they paid thousands of dollars for jobs in Canada that did not materialize.
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan has been pushing for an overhaul of regulations for immigration consultants.
A B.C. court has approved a class-action lawsuit against Mac’s Convenience Stores and three immigration consulting firms by migrant workers who say they paid thousands of dollars for jobs in Canada that did not materialize.
The four lead plaintiffs — two each from Nepal and the Philippines — allege that Mac’s and the consulting firms had promised them jobs but failed to deliver, and that the consulting companies “unlawfully” collected recruitment fees from them.
Mac’s and the consulting firms say the job positions were not guaranteed and the fees were not for job placement but for assistance with the immigration and settlement process.
The court’s decision let the lawsuit proceed “is significant as it means that workers recruited abroad to work in Canada and who have paid recruitment fees, or whose contracts of employment have not been honoured by Canadian employers, or who have otherwise had their rights infringed, have an effective means of seeking redress,” said Charles Gordon, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.
“Acting individually, legal action is not feasible for such workers. By allowing them to act collectively as a class, the court has provided them a means of seeking justice.”
All three immigration companies named in the lawsuit — Overseas Immigration Services, Overseas Career and Consulting Services (OCCS), and Trident Immigration — are alleged by the claimants to be controlled by Surrey, B.C. man Kuldeep Bansal, a licensed consultant with the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.
According to the statement of claim, the lead plaintiffs were all recruited in job fairs held in Dubai and paid around $8,000 in fees in exchange for the promise of a job in Canada.
Typically, they paid $2,000 in cash in Dubai to get the process started and then the balance of payment after they received an employment offer from Mac’s and a positive labour market assessment approval for their visa to Canada, according to the claim.
Under Canadian laws, employers are permitted to hire third-party representatives to recruit foreign workers but they must pay for all fees associated with the service and cannot download the costs to workers. Recruiters are also prohibited from charging workers fees for job placement.
Two of the workers’ contracts with Mac’s included a term that said Mac’s would assume the cost of transportation from the Middle East to Alberta and back to their home countries, according to the lawsuit.
The lead plaintiffs say they received a visa to Canada and were issued work permits upon arrival. However, they say there was no job for them at Mac’s when they got here.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. No statement of defence has yet been filed by Mac’s or the consulting firms.
Counsel for the consulting firms didn’t responded to the Star’s request for comment for this article. Mac’s declined to comment.
According to the B.C. court decision’s summary of the defendants’ submission, Mac’s started using Overseas Career and Consulting Services, a licensed employment agency in B.C., in 2012 to assist in recruiting foreign workers in parts of Western Canada. It agreed to pay the employment agency a success fee for every worker that was hired.
In its submission, Mac’s said it never authorized any party, including OCCS, to charge or collect any payments from migrant workers, directly or indirectly. Neither has Mac’s ever collected or received any such payment from workers, it said.
The company said its labour needs were changing constantly and it only executed employment contracts when positions were available. There was always a possibility that the position would no longer be available by the time the temporary foreign worker candidates’ visas, work permits, and travel arrangements could be finalized.
Mac’s also said it understood OCCS did not charge candidates fees for securing jobs, but did charge them fees relating to assisting them with processing immigration documents and navigating the immigration process, which Mac’s said it had no involvement in.
The consulting firms said in their court submission that they did not collect any fees for job recruitment but for immigration and settlement services for the workers.
In June, a parliamentary standing committee recommended an overhaul of the regulations of immigration consultants, but the Liberal government has yet to act on the recommendations, said NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan.
“The current system we have is broken,” said Kwan. “It is time to take action.”
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