Two temporary foreign workers who exposed employer abuses of the TFW Program are now facing deportation. With the help of USW Local 9346, the workers at a Fernie, B.C., Tim Horton’s launched an RCMP and Employment Standards Branch investigation into their former employer, Pierre Pelletier, back in 2013.
The franchise owner was accused by employees of wage theft and harassment. All of the six workers who raised concerns are Filipino and hired through the TFWP to work in the Fernie establishment. Jona Pineda, one of the workers now facing deportation, claims that Pelletier would only help her complete the Provincial Nominee Program paperwork as part of the process of becoming a permanent resident if she convinced another co-worker to drop their complaint with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch.
Since leaving the Fernie location, Jona and her husband Chris Pineda found work in the fast-food industry in Fort Macleod, Alberta. However, their work permits under the TFWP expired in August, and their current employer has not applied for them to stay under the new program, according to the CBC. The fate of the Pinedas, and their three children, now rests in the hands of the federal government.
What has not garnered media attention is the support these and other foreign workers received from USW Local 9346, headquartered in Sparwood, British Columbia. Although the Steelworker local represents about 900 mine workers in the region, it answered the plea of fast-food workers who sought support and assistance with their complaint.
The USW has been at the forefront of campaigning for an overhaul of the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Just as coal prices slump, hundreds of mine workers in B.C. have been laid off as companies idle operations. In April, over 700 workers were displaced when Walter Energy shut down its Tumbler Ridge operation in northeaster British Columbia. Tumbler Ridge councillor and deputy mayor Rob Mackay estimates that local unemployment is around 60%-70% because of the shut down. Yet, coal giant HD Mining International, which operates in the region, insists on using foreign workers from China just as resource sector unemployment climbs.
RankandFile.ca spoke with Alex Hanson, President of USW Local 9346, about the TFWP, the union’s work with the Tim Horton’s employees, and the Steelworkers’ position on foreign labour in Canada.