April 30th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 17
Tim Hortons assumes control of franchises in Crowsnest and Fernie
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Tim Hortons’ assumes control of franchises in Crowsnest Pass and Fernie.
Pass Herald Reporter
A local scandal went national last week.
What began as a labour dispute at a Tim Hortons franchise in Fernie, B.C. has put popular fast food chains on the defensive, caused the CEO of McDonalds Canada to use a swearword and compelled Jason Kenney, minister of employment and social development, to publicly criticize his own program.
For citizens of the Elk Valley and the Crowsnest Pass, the events mean a change of ownership at the local donut shop, sparked an ongoing RCMP investigation and caused a Filipino worker to say justice has been done.
Last December, Richard Pepito and five other Tim Hortons’ employees publically accused former franchise owner Pierre Pelletier of cheating them out of their overtime wages. All the complainants worked at the Fernie franchise and all were Filipinos participating in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Last week, Tim Hortons took over its Blairmore and Fernie franchises and distanced itself from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
“We have terminated our relationship with the Blairmore, Alberta/Fernie B.C. franchisee for failing to comply with Employment Standards requirements, a matter Tim Hortons takes very seriously,” said Olga Petrycki, Tim Hortons senior manager of public affairs in an emailed statement.
Petrycki confirmed that TDL Group Corp. has taken over Pelletier’s franchises, which will remain open.
Pepito said he worked at the Pelletier franchise for several years and that the biggest issue was not getting paid for overtime. He said Pelletier would issue paychecks and then ask for overtime wages back, in cash.
“He told us, that’s his money,” said Pepito. “[But I kept quiet because] he could send me home. Or he will not help me with papers to become a permanent citizen.”
Pepito eventually quit his job and filed a complaint with the British Columbia Employment Standards Branch. He said that he feels justice is being done after it was announced that Tim Hortons was terminating their contract with Pelletier.
“I’m really happy he has no more power to harass us anymore,” said Pepito. “Because we are foreign workers, maybe he thought he could get away with it.”
The end of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program?
On Thursday, April 24 Kenney announced a moratorium on the fast food sectors access to the program. He said that the government will no longer process any new or pending applications for temporary foreign workers until the program is reviewed.
“Our Government has been clear: Canadians must have the first chance at available jobs,” Kenney said in a statement. “We have repeatedly warned employers that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program must only be used as a last and limited resort when Canadians are not available.”
But by then Ottawa was just reacting to events.
Earlier that day, the C.D. Howe Institute released a report on changes made to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program between 2004 and 2012. The changes made it easier for companies to hire foreign workers. The report found the program was increasing the unemployment rate in Alberta and B.C.
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In response, fast food giant McDonalds also distanced itself from the program but only after CBC reported that John Betts, McDonald’s Canada CEO, called criticism of the company’s use of temporary foreign workers.
The fast food chain put its program on hold and released a statement saying it is first and foremost an employer of Canadians.
"McDonald’s employs more than 85,000 people across Canada; only four percent are temporary foreign workers…Only 268 of our more than 1,400 restaurants across the country employ temporary foreign workers," said the spokesperson.
The CBC also reported that three McDonald’s franchises in Victoria, B.C. were involved in the abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Not wanting to be outdone, Tim Hortons released a statement saying franchises using temporary foreign workers would be facing greater attention through their auditing program, which has been in place since 2010.
“[We] are now broadening our audit program to include mandatory independent audits for every franchisee who accesses the Temporary Foreign Worker Program,” said the statement.
According to Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the purpose of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is to help fill labour shortages. The program has grown from 101,000 participants in 2002, to almost 338,000 participants in 2012.
Chasing the Canadian Dream
The RCMP has opened a file related to the alleged abuses at the Fernie franchise but no charges have been laid at this time.
Current employees at the Tim Hortons franchise in Blairmore declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Alex Hanson, president of the United Steelworkers Local 9346, is representing Pepito in his B.C. Employment Standards complaint. He calls the Temporary Foreign Worker Program a two-tiered labour system.
“The fundamental flaw in the program is that workers would be brought to Canada but they wouldn’t be given democratic or collective rights,” he said. “As a Canadian worker, if I don’t like my job I can go somewhere else, but these people can’t do that, they’re stuck with the employer. They’re indentured.”
Hanson said the regular immigration system is the best option for solving the country’s labour shortage woes.
Pepito arrived in Canada from Manila, the capital of the Philippines in 2009. The forty-year old father of three children is working as a kitchen supervisor at the Boston Pizza in Fernie.
He says his goal is to continue working and to eventually achieve full citizenship.
“This is the promised land for us,” he said. “In the Philippines unemployment is very high. I want to bring my kids here, my family and to be a citizen.”
Pierre Pelletier was contacted but did not respond to a request for comment.
April 30th ~ Vol. 84 No. 17
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