Off the Record: A double-double deception

Small towns in the East Kootenay are not the place you expect to be hearing about employers taking advantage of foreign workers.

Small towns in the East Kootenay are not the place you expect to be hearing about employers unscrupulously taking advantage of foreign workers.

Surely that’s something you’d hear about in Vancouver or Toronto, but here? It sadly turns out that may indeed be the case with CBC’s recent story on a Tim Horton’s owner allegedly using two Filipinos’ temporary foreign worker statuses to cheat them out of overtime pay, then trying to intimidate them to hush up about it.

According to the story, Heidi Kibanoff and Richard Pepito were hired to work at the Tim Horton’s through Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers program and then sought permanent residency through the Provincial Nominee Program.

The couple, along with other workers in similar circumstances, often worked long hours. On pay day, the owner allegedly cut the workers cheques for their extra time, but then took them immediately to the bank, made them cash the cheques and then took a portion of the cash back.

The pair eventually quit the job and filed a complaint with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch, but say they’ve since been intimidated and harassed. Apparently Tim Horton’s corporate head office had already launched its own investigation into the matter.

The owner’s behaviour, if the allegations are true, is simply outrageous. What kind of slime bucket forces people — who are already in dire enough financial straits that they’re willing to leave their families half a world behind and work long hours at what is likely close to minimum wage — to then fork over some of their hard-earned wages?

It’s exactly the kind of thing you’d think would never happen in a small East Kootenay town and yet it seems it does. The larger towns and smaller villages across the region all tout their sense of community and deservedly so. Unfortunately, this can gloss over the fact that many of these places still do have problems, sometimes significant ones.

Hopefully, if the Filipino couple’s allegations are proven true, the Tim Horton’s owner is dealt with harshly by the Employment Standards Branch, by the Tim Hortons corporate head office and by residents in the community.

Obviously the company headquarters and the relevant government agencies have a responsibility to make sure this kind of behaviour is not tolerated, but so too does the community.

Residents’ voicing their feelings — or if they really want to make a point, boycotting the Tim Hortons in question — would likely resonate with the owner more than anything else.

 

Steve Hubrecht is a reporter for The Valley Echo and can be reached at steve@invermerevalleyecho.com.

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