The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has decided to hear complaints by a number of temporary foreign workers against a Tim Hortons franchise in Fernie, B.C.
The United Steel Workers filed the complaints on behalf of the workers.
The union and the workers are alleging the Tim Hortons franchisee provided inadequate employer accommodations and the franchise owner would drive workers to the bank, get them to cash their cheques, and demand they return a part of their overtime pay.
According to Stephen Hunt, Western Canada Director for the USW, the workers, who were from the Philippines, approached the union around six months ago.
“The union did some research with them and determined that it looked to them like a violation of workers rights and human rights, they started to give them a hand,” he says.
The union hired Koskie Glavin Gordon, a Vancouver-based employee and union-side law firm, to represent the workers. The firm has been involved with a number of cases involving temporary foreign workers that had been abused, including high-profile complaints against HD Mining and Denny’s.
The HD Mining case led to the federal government to introduce changes to the TFW programme, while the Denny’s case resulted in a $1.4 million settlement.
The USW also unearthed the Royal Bank of Canada’s use of temporary foreign workers, which created a media storm across the country and resulted in the bank issuing an apology.
The government recently introduced new changes to the TFW programme, which Tim Hortons applauded.
“We support Minister Kenney’s view that any abuses of this programme should be dealt with harshly, and we encourage the federal government to make independent audits mandatory for every company that uses this crucial programme,” said a statement from the company in April.
Hunt however believes the changes didn’t go far enough.
In the past, Tim Hortons has fought human rights complaints made by temporary foreign workers, including a high-profile case involving four workers from Mexico that worked in Dawson Creek, B.C., who were deported after alleging they were subjected to a racist and abusive work environment. That case is still before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
Hunt hopes that the company won’t fight the case.
“It was one franchisee that we know them but it doesn’t mean all locations are bad,” he says.