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Foreign workers miffed over mistreatment






The experience of four Filipino immigrants who recently arrived in Manitoba is sounding alarm bells about the treatment of new foreign workers in the province.

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CBC News

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The experience of four Filipino immigrants who recently arrived in Manitoba is sounding alarm bells about the treatment of new foreign workers in the province.

Glen Syping, Imelda Campecino, Mercedes Comia and Alan Acar each paid a Niagara Falls, Ont., employment recruiter $3,000 to get to Canada, plus nearly each $1,700 in airfare in July.

The four, experienced hospitality-sector workers, allege they were financially exploited by their former employer, who was introduced to the workers through an accredited immigration consultant in Saskatchewan.

The CBC News I-Team was asked to investigate what happened to the immigrants after they came to work for a family who owns and operate three Wendy’s fast-food restaurants in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Under an agreement with the Trotter family, the immigrants said they were to be reimbursed their airfare and health-care costs, but said they were rebuffed until the I-Team became involved.

Initially, the four said they were brought in to work as agreed at a franchise in Regina.

But, they said, their headaches began after being shipped off to another of the Trotters' restaurants in Brandon, Man., a three-hour drive east of Regina.

The immigrants charge that on their arrival, management at the restaurant displayed a pattern of threatening behaviour.

“They treat us not good, like if we make a mistake they’re going to tell us that we’re going to send you back home,” Comia said.

Wages docked to rent employer’s property
The four also said much of their $10.50 hourly wage was going right back into Trotter family's pockets as payment for their living arrangements.

The I-Team investigation uncovered the four were being charged $2,400 a month, $600 each, to live in a home owned by Trotter.

The same home is currently on the rental market for $1,200 monthly, with utilities extra.

Jordan Trotter said the rent increase was needed to cover utility costs such as phone bills, yard care and snow removal. But Manitoba’s Residential Tenancies Branch reduced the charge, saying it was excessive.

Trotter said the plan was to return the workers to the Regina restaurant after they finished a period of training, but couldn’t explain why they had been asked to sign a year's lease and provide 12 postdated cheques for payment of rent.

As well, the workers said, despite an agreement from Jordan Trotter that health-care insurance would be provided, Acar said he paid for treatment out of his own pocket when he went to a walk-in clinic for a wrist injury.

He said he was fired after missing a shift for going to the clinic for that injury.

The group told the I-Team they decided Acar’s dismissal was the final straw and refused to go back to work.

It was a decision that led Barb Bakker, a Saskatchewan-based manager of the Trotters' business, to threaten them with eviction as well as cancellation of their work permits and even arrest.

Immigrants get work elsewhere
The four immigrants provided CBC News with a tape-recording of a phone call made by Bakker where the threats on their employment were made.

Trotter admitted to the I-Team the threats could be interpreted as intimidating.

He also said efforts have been made to refund the workers what was promised to them.

“There were mistakes made, and again, we’re working with the official channels, with the proper authorities to have these employees reimbursed,” Trotter said.

The workers have all found work at a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in Thompson, Man., about 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg.


Economic sectors

Sales and service occupations - general

Content types

Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

Manitoba and Philippines