Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for June 20, 2012

Accusations inaccurate, store owner insists

The NDP has called on the territorial government to conduct an audit of the Yukon Nominee Program after media reports that some workers are being exploited.

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Education Minister Scott Kent and Lois Moorcroft

The NDP has called on the territorial government to conduct an audit of the Yukon Nominee Program after media reports that some workers are being exploited.

CBC radio reported Tuesday that some Filipino workers currently or previously employed at Tags on Fourth Avenue were/are being underpaid.

The report said their contract through the Nominee Program, which allows employers to bring workers to Whitehorse from overseas, stipulated they earn a salary of $13 an hour.

The Tags employees told the CBC they were given paycheques for the amount set out in their contract, but were told to pay back the equivalent of $3 for every hour they worked, leaving them earning a $10-an-hour salary.

They also said they had to repay their airfares from the Philippines, which are normally covered by the employer.

In an interview this morning, Tags owner Preet Sidhu said the complaints and accusations made to the CBC are inaccurate, but he is trying to work with his employees to understand their concerns.

He said he would be willing to work with the program co-ordinators on any further investigations.

Education Minister Scott Kent said today he has asked department staff to reopen the investigation into complaints filed in February by the Tags employees.

The investigation was initially closed without further action because there wasn’t enough evidence to back up the employees’ claims, he said in an interview with the Star this morning.

“Based on the new complaints that surfaced in yesterday’s news story from the CBC, I’ve asked the department to open the file again and open the investigation
and take a second look.

“The most important thing is that we protect the integrity of the Nominee Program, which is designed to protect immigrants while also helping the employers find the workers that they need,” said Kent.

“It’s been tremendously successful, but there are cases like the one mentioned in the recent media report by the CBC that we have to make sure that we look into those type of complaints and conduct a full and fair investigation.”

He won’t be ordering a full audit of the program though, as the NDP has urged.

In a release sent out yesterday, Lois Moorcroft, the NDP critic for the advanced education branch, said “an audit would be an appropriate method to explore where there are deficiencies and come up with recommended changes that benefit all.”

She also called on the minister to outline how his department provides oversight of the program.

Kent said this morning, “(an audit) is not something that’s warranted at this time.”

When a nominee arrives in the Yukon, there’s an interview between the Yukon government, the employer and the nominee during which a contract is signed that sets standards for work schedules, pay, housing, and support services.

Kent said the advanced education branch also does regular monitoring to ensure that employers are in compliance with the terms of the contract.

“It’s an ongoing process that takes place through the department to make sure that the rights of nominees are being protected and of course that the contract is being adhered to.”

Kent was quick to note that the program has had great success in the Yukon.

“I don’t want to lose sight of how successful this program has been for so many employers and of course the nominees themselves in transitioning into the work force here and into Canada.”

Between 2008 and 2011, 590 workers have entered the Yukon through the different streams of the Nominee Program.

Currently, there are 460 nominees, and 342 nominees have become permanent residents since the program began.

“Not only do they provide a tremendous boost to the economy of the territory, I think that we’ve seen an extremely enriched culture here in the Yukon as well from their presence,” said Kent.

“Many of the workers that have come in over the past number of years are in the Filipino community, and I think they’ve really contributed to the culture and vibrancy of the Yukon as a whole.”

In an interview today, Moorcroft said the NDP has been asking questions about the issues brought up in recent media reports regarding the Nominee Program for years.

“We want to know what the wage levels are for the employment sectors that are involved in the Nominee Program, we’ve asked for a breakdown of what employment sectors are employing foreign workers ... how the Department of Education, which is responsible for the program, ensures that workers are paid the appropriate rate and how occupational health and safety, and workers’ compensation board and employment standards rights for foreign workers are communicated to participants,” said Moorcroft.

She asked many of these questions again during debate in the recent legislative sitting, she noted.

Part of the information the Opposition has requested includes the number of complaints the minister has received and how the department has followed up on them, and queries about whether nominees are given information sheets in their first language and how health and safety information is communicated to them.

“I think the minister has failed to respond adequately to date, and I’m still looking for him to respond,” Moorcroft said.

“I would very much like to see (the minister) respond to the needs and provide a public explanation of how the government ensures that workers’ rights under both the Nominee Program and Foreign Workers program are protected; they need to put that on the public record.”

CommentsAdd a comment

Max Mack

Jun 20, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Kent’s refusal to investigate the initial complaints are a typical tactic employed by governments to hide problems. Similarly, his argument against an audit smells of a cover-up attempt. Good program evaluation should have a built-in audit component. Obviously, the “monitoring” component alleged by Kent is not working.

There is a huge potential for foreign government workers to be abused, not only by employers but also by third party “employment agencies”, immigration “specialists” and others.

Employers are unwilling to hire our own residents because natural-born Canadians want higher wages, better working conditions and a meaningful job.

Employers want to hire foreign workers because Filipinos (and other nationalities) are desperate to live in a first world country and to improve their living standard. Many foreign workers are willing to put up with low wages, part-time hours, variable shifts, menial jobs, authoritative bosses and other challenging working conditions in exchange for the promise of a better life and Canadian citizenship.

Employers want a readily available supply of cheap labour. They want the stability and low administrative overhead that foreign workers bring. They don’t want the hassle of trying to provide jobs that Canadians actually want.

Employers should be expected to pay for that.

I have no sympathy for the owner of Tags or minister Kent.

anonymous

Jun 21, 2012 at 1:14 am

“Kent said the advanced education branch also does regular monitoring to ensure that employers are in compliance with the terms of the contract”

I know many nominees, and not once has anyone from advanced education checked in with them.  They do tell them that they will come to the workplace once every six months, but it just doesn’t happen.  Abuses of all sort could be happening, and they would never know.

Patrick

Jun 21, 2012 at 8:26 am

“Tags owner Preet Sidhu said the complaints and accusations made to the CBC are inaccurate, but he is trying to work with his employees to understand their concerns.”

I cannot wait to see if he is telling the truth.

eddie rue

Jun 21, 2012 at 11:09 am

Good old Tags, I had about 10 reasons to not go there, now I have 11. I would drive to Carcross before I would given them a penny.

north_of_60

Jun 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm

A little investigative reporting will find that some contractors have a ‘special’ relationship with the government.  The lot selection at Mt Sima sub and the “Lowbird meteors” gives a hint.  The government’s ‘actions’ in this case seem to follow a pattern.

Brice Carruthers

Jun 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm

How about the Filipinos who abuse the system to get into Canada?!?!  I know several Filipino women, who got here initially through marriage to older white males, turn around and sponsor their relatives as “nannies”.  Pretty soon the whole extended family is living in Whitehorse.  The local Filipino population better be careful about going to the press.  You never know when their own shenanigans will be exposed.

Jackie Ward

Jun 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Its rather sad. It seems the only ones who have any rights worth mentioning are filipinos or temporary foreign workers other than from Western Europe. Why is this news? You can bet if it was a disgruntled Caucasian, no one would be the wiser. Just wait for wanna-be mayor rick to come to the rescue on this case. He seems to champion anyone who is a temporary foreign worker, instead of multi generational Canadians. You know, the ones that built this country? Truth hurts, dosen’t it?

Martin Lehner

Jun 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm

The YNP is an excellent resource for employers. It gives access to labour markets that simply, honestly, do not exist at the moment locally. Without the YNP, we would be hundreds if not thousands of staff short in basic labour market positions. The program, on a whole, works wonderfully. Through my involvement with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, I can tell you that both employers AND employees are very grateful that this program exists. It does NOT need a full audit. A complete, full audit will cost a good amount of taxpayer dollars, as well as business owners time and money. Have there been widespread complaints about abuse ? Have multiple employers been accused of “cheating the system” ? Are YNP nominees circumventing immigration regulations ? Or are we simply looking at a single employer allegedly having made program violations ? Let’s not overreact… Allow the department some time to investigate the allegations and report the findings.

Sam

Jun 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm

When I was in Yukon, I used to go in Tags to get some gas. I noticed that all the workers there are foreign. I remembered talking to one of the worker, she’s a very young looking lady saying how she loves her job as a cashier because she get the chance to meet different kinds of people, and when I asked hows her boss treating her, she just gave me a smile. In the back of my mind, I can tell something is not right. One day when I went to get gas, I heard she quit and her fellow worker didn’t tell me why.

Couple days ago, I read the news from CBC and now it all make sense to me. I really feel bad to all Filipino workers there that they are keeping to themselves for what’s really happening inside the store.

I am looking forward to see what the government will do for this case. I wish it won’t take long for the investigation, since the Filipino workers already suffered too much….

PAUL

Jun 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Kudos for those workers whose so brave enough to tell the truth!! and for those fellow Filipinos whose afraid to speak and support their fellas, well its time to do your part as well…
If you want to be treated equal as Canadians,  then do the right thing. Just tell the truth and support your fellas!

I’m not going to spend any penny to TAGS anymore!

June Jackson

Jun 21, 2012 at 10:25 pm

MaxMack has hit it right on.. the entire program is ripe for abuse. Where are these people living? 10-15 people to a house? and how many actually make it to a citizenship application or are sent packing when their work permit expires?

Money does not have a conscious or a soul.. business owners are no better and no worse here than anywhere else in the world.  damned few are engaged in anything but money.

Guncache

Jun 22, 2012 at 10:55 am

There should be no need to bring in foreign workers.  How many people are sitting on their ass collecting welfare and unemployment.  Any one on welfare should be forced to take any job.  If the pay is less than what they rake in from the taxpayer it can be topped up. The same goes for unemployment insurance.  Likewise welfare cases should be given credit at the grocery store,not a cheque.  No more cigarettes, booze, tatoos and big flat screen TV’s.  I realize that there are some on welfare because they genuinely cannot work because of a physical handicap and I am OK with that.  It is time the system was revamped and we put our own people to work regardless of the pay.  No work, no pay, simple.

Spud Snyder

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:32 am

10 yrs ago I advocated min wage of $10./hr and today should be at least $15./hr
I have personal exp. with nominee program and like it very much.  They show up clean, appropriately dressed and with a desire to work and do a good job.  They are worth $15./hr.
They do not have unsitely tatoos or rings and studs hanging off their face/tongue.
There are some Canadians equally responsible but they are in the minority.  Many Canadians show up dirty, they need a bath/shower, walk around like they are half dead and have no desire to please the customer. They cannot be relied upon to show up for work and after payday they are gone for days.  They are a liability not worth $2./hr. and not welcome in my establishment.

Bob Sally

Jun 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Dear Guncache ... lets try some facts versus Urban Myth. Breakdown of welfare caseload .. approx 35% considered unemployable using same definition as CPP - persistent severe disability with a duration of at least a year - 10 percent permanently disabled and unable to work ... a small percentage over age 65 ... a small percentage exempted because they are single and raising a child under two years of age ... many of those left and technically called “employable” have mutiple barriers they have to overcome - from mental illness, lack of skills etc. The reality is that the vast majority are legitimately there and not bums sucking your tax dollars, getting high and laughing at you for paying for their luxurious life style. Give them a break or at the very least get informed before you spout off.

north_of_60

Jun 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm

As long as certain groups are entitled to a free ride at taxpayers expense, then there is little or no incentive for them to work at the low wage jobs that immigrant workers fill.  That’s what happens with a culture of entitlement.

The immigrant workers I’ve met are a credit to our community.  They’re hard working, they show up on time every day, put in a full shift, and they’re respectful and courteous to customers.  By and large they’re much better people than the Great Canadian Entitlement Generation.

Martin Lehner

Jun 24, 2012 at 12:06 am

@ June Jackson: Do you know how many YNP nominees make it to permanent residence ? As for how many people live to a single house, how is that relevant ? If they choose to live that way in order to save money, go ahead, there’s nothing that stops a dozen Yukon College students from doing the exact same thing.

I would disagree with your comment that “damned few employers are engaged in anything but money”. I’d challenge you to go look around town at Yukon small businesses, and see how many support local sports teams, donate to charitable events, etc. I think you’d find that Yukon businesses are proportionally more likely to support their community, than say (for example), Toronto, or Edmonton, or Winnipeg.

non-status white Canadian

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:47 am

My experience is some immigrant workers provide marginally adequate service (language being the biggest barrier…) but many are already showing signs of rude, dismissive and arrogant behaviour. It is only a matter of time before most get out from under the thumb of their exploitative employers, gain permanent residency and quickly adopt the local attitude most Whitehorse service providers are all too known for. Many will likely one day become the employers that they now secretly despise and hate. And the cycle continues…

The skimpy “donations” local businesses contribute are for the most part nothing more than cheap advertising intended to fool the naive. Means nothing if in reality their actual conduct fails to demonstrate duty of care. And what better way for governments and businesses to effectively silence what would otherwise be outspoken individuals, artists, sports organizations and other consortiums than controlling purse strings?

anon

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:54 am

Martin Lehner, with regard to June Jackson’s comment concerning housing I am pretty sure that these people who come here do not “choose to live that way in order to save money,” are you kidding? They come here, receive low wages, are unable to find suitable, and affordable housing, so they take what they can get! Seriously do you Really think people “choose” to live this way? get real!

Brice Carruthers

Jun 25, 2012 at 5:31 pm

@ anon - Not every culture is the same.  In most of the world, living with your parents and sometimes extended families is how they WANT to live.  The western notion of ditching your family at 18 to go find your own way in the world is an alien concept to most of the globe.  It is very typical arrogant western thinking that assumes the rest of the world wants the west’s model of living.

Angelina Nelson

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Interesting story! Perhaps, all the brilliant critics above should pay attention to the facts and ask some questions. If complaints were made, why were they not investigated ASAP? If said event was occurring why would the Yukon Nominees agree to it?  If they get their cheques at the full amount, why return the money?  Desperation is not an excuse to manipulate the system. If desperation is the rationale for the manipulation then by that notion con artist should be allowed to continue forth with their endeavors as they also want to have a better lifestyle.

Another issue is why are the YNP encouraging the payment of $13 when local workers are making less? It doesn’t seem fair.  Should everyone not be on the same playing field? As well with the YNP, the employer has to pay for flights, insurance, and a higher wage… shouldn’t local workers get these rights as well? How much of the YNP wage remains in the Yukon? How much is sent back home? 

Why is no one concerned that KFC is going to obtain most of their workers from the YNP? Most people begin their jobs at fast food restaurants and stores; aren’t we decreasing the opportunities for the youth of today to find work by using YNP?

Question everything, draw conclusion from facts and not hearsay. In the court of the law hearsay has no weight ergo, opinions should be based on facts; as I can currently read, there doesn’t seem to be any, just speculation

Angelina Nelson

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:44 pm

North_of_60

Pretty sure Preet is not a common North American name that would make him an immigrant… well you can use your stellar investigative skills and see the path I am leading you down.

north_of_60

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:37 pm

A great many immigrant workers and their families come here because our minimum wage plus social, environmental and medical benefits is far far better than life where they came from.  They choose to come here and stay because it is.

Brice Carruthers

Jun 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Not that I’m defending Tags, but, folks…this is a fact…I have had Filipinos phone me at my business and offer to pay all the sponsorship fees and the flight to Canada, if I sponsored them through the YNP.  They are essentially bribing local businesses to sponsor them, because they are that desperate to get out of their motherland.  Many Filipinos leave the Yukon for large southern centres as soon as they get permanent landed immigrant status.  If Yukon employers are gaming the system, the Filipinos are doing it tenfold!

Cathy

Jun 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm

While Preet may not be a common name yet in this part of the country, I’m sure it is in other parts.  And may be a name given to babies who are in fact born in this country.

Jackie Ward

Jun 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Have to agree with Brice on this one. They are abusing our system and it needs to stop. Please Rick Karp explain to us why the Philippines is the only country in this world where you can draw your cheap labour from?. Is it because they are easily exploited? I have no problem people coming here. I do have a problem with ones who refuse to learn English and respect our values. And break our immigration laws. Maybe back home they don’t have laws, but here we do. I don’t care how hard they work. I’ve stopped going to business’s that employ people who can’t speak English. It’s not much but I speak with my wallet in today’s world. The only language that is universal. As well I don’t feel a need as a Yukoner to support business’s who would rather exploit cheap labour instead of giving the job to Yukoners. A temporary worker is not a Yukoner in my eyes. They are only here to benefit themselves and their family. They could care less about bettering our country. How does sending all your money back overseas help our economy again?

Akimajuktuq

Jun 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I understand what North of 60 is saying when referring to the “Great Canadian Entitlement Generation” and I think there are a large number of Canadians that fall into this category. I recently talked with someone from Cuba and she was praising Canada for how well we look after our citizens. Sometimes we look after them too well imo.

However, the situation in Whitehorse is such that only highly paid people can afford adequate housing and a modest lifestyle. The majority of wages do not come close to matching the cost of living. To me, that needs to be addressed, YESTERDAY! I have no problem with immigrants in the Yukon but if they are being used so that wages can remain ridiculously low, then I don’t agree. If one has a full time job, they should be able to pay the rent/mortgage and feed their family.

I also recognize that if the service/retail industry has to pay employees a decent wage, prices will go up for all of us. So be it.

If these workers were mistreated, I hope the store owner is forced to repay them and make amends. I can’t understand why the whole program isn’t monitored/audited on a regular basis.

Don Jackson

Jun 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Jackie Ward,

“They are only here to benefit themselves and their family.” 

Hmmmm, sound like anyone else who works for a living. 
What exactly do you see wrong with that?

north_of_60

Jun 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Incidents like this should be thoroughly investigated by an independent group.

Get a grip

Jun 28, 2012 at 10:18 am

Wow Jackie, I can’t believe your ignorance.  The philippines are great people and they want to work, unlike a large number of others living in Whitehorse sucking the system dry.  They are hard working, friendly and polite.  I sure hope one day you end up somewhere where you are the minority and people won’t give you the time of day because you can’t speak their language fluently. 

Josey Wales

Jun 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Angelina, your 8:35 post was bang on AND well said.
Upon learning the $13/HR thing for our new turnstile of PC overcompensation…I was sickened.

Much like the new medical coverage changes for imports via Jason Kenny NO NON Canadian should be entitled to more than we as HOSTS get!
No debate required as it is a very very simple thing to respect our citizens Vs. bending over backwards to import more bodies…regardless of their country of origin.
Speaking of which are there no poor folks in Europe that also too like a chance to strap on the Canadian socialist feed bag of entitlement?
Or is it not dripping with PC garbage enough to import some folks whom can at least speak one of our two LEGALLY recognized languages?

Funny thing is…I remember when Tim Horton’s hired those “lazy kids” we have…and I never had time to write a message whilst waiting Vs. the book one can write with time wasted.
Yup in and out it used to be and in English too? Imagine folks eh?
That was way back when Mt. Sima had their greedy hands out for tax dollars…in the 90’s…..never mind!

Funny the only thing that has changed is I by-pass Tim’s as I am not a ESL instructor….nor buy the “positive stereotypes” being perpetuated with myth.
Odd thing about those stereotypes eh…when they are positive they are not “racist generalizations”...only when not so flattering are they deemed racist?

...In short, when Canada has ZERO unemployment…then kick in this “temporary” worker thing.
Till then? Come visit or apply to feed in the trough of entitlement as a Canadian prior to handing out your resume.

Josey Wales

Jun 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Hey get a grip, perhaps you need to tighten your grasp…on reality.

The point often in arguments as these, is that one needs not go anywhere but most major centers in Canada (here in 10-15 years)...to be not given the time of day because we (regular Canadians) have “failed” to learn their language.

Last time I was in YVR and Vancouver, I could’ve applied for a “equity job” if that still exists when the evil Europeans apply.

Our culture here in Canada?
Being overly generous and getting walked on like passive sidewalks…enabling/funding the PC Circus all the way.

Jackie Ward

Jun 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm

White people are becoming the minority. I don’t care how nice someone is.  I would never expect a country to open their doors and wallets to me if I refused to respect their values and not learn their language.  You must be a business owner “get a grip”. Gotta protect that cheap labour pool eh? And to the above about providing for your family. The majority are using Canada as a door mat. Please explain how sending the majority of their money overseas helps our economy again?

Alexis Briggs

Jun 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm

@GET a Grip——I strongly Agree for what you said!!!!!
@Jackie Ward—-You misjudge Filipino too much. Some employers preferred foreign workers to work with them because, they are way better for some Yukoners, but then again you don’t care how hard working they are…. 
Yes, its true that some of them can’t speak English fluently, that’s because English is not their first language, but yet they strive hard to communicate. If you prefer a worker who speaks English fluently, but not hardworking compare to Filipino, so be it..
I’m still waiting for the investigation result…. Been checking the news everyday, but still no result yet. HA!

flyingfur

Jun 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Pretty surprised and in some cases shocked at the comments on here…a few are outright racist.  White people in t he minority, remarks about “foreigners” moving here and “not speaking our language”.  Funny, I figured we were all “foreigners” of one vintage or another…how soon we forget.  And Josey Wales…good lord…if suddenly every foreign worker left Whitehorse you think a Yukoner will immediately drop into the vacant job?  I don’t think so.

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