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A tale of two workers

Two Filipino men are claiming they've been mistreated by Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program. However, their former employers are challenging that assertion.

Two Filipino men are claiming they’ve been mistreated by Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

However, their former employers are challenging that assertion.

Monday, the Yukon Federation of Labour laid out problems with the program and its sister, the Yukon Nominee Program.

At least 10 individuals have complained about working long hours, not being paid overtime and not receiving full-time hours, said federation president Alex Furlong, who wouldn’t release many details.

Some also complain training is inadequate and there’s little understanding of health and safety regulations.

“The issue in the foreign worker community is, very simply, they are scared,” said Furlong.

“They are scared to raise issues; there is a lack of understanding in the process and they have absolutely nowhere to turn.”

To back up his case, Furlong cited workers Francis Dura and Reynaldo Verdeflor, who now face deportation.

Verdeflor says he was laid off from his Alberta job because of the economic downturn. He was offered a free flight home, but wanted to continue working in Canada.

He found a job in Whitehorse, said Verdeflor.

He explained his situation to his employer, asking that she sponsor him under the Yukon Nominee Program, he said.

But after six weeks’ work, Verdeflor’s application remained in limbo. As well, the woman withheld his pay and threatened to report him to border services if he complained, he said.

She returned his Yukon nominee application, which was blank.

While Furlong would not name the employer, it has been learned Verdeflor was working at the Chocolate Claim.

The man had found another job and was about to enter the nominee process again when border services agents arrested him.

They carried the missing Chocolate Claim paycheque. It was short hours, said Verdeflor.

“He was paid in full and as quickly as possible,” said Glenys Baltimore, the Chocolate Claim’s owner, who challenges Verdeflor’s version of events.

He arrived at the shop claiming to have a valid work permit, she said.

He had a valid social insurance number, so she believed him.

He worked less than a month.

Shortly before Verdeflor left, Baltimore was preparing his nominee documents and discovered he lacked a valid work permit, she said.

“Had I known that he did not have a valid work permit, I would not have allowed him to work.”

She suspended him until the work permit was straightened out.

“He insisted on being paid and I didn’t know whether I could legally pay him or not, because he was working without a permit,” she said.

So Baltimore asked the Canadian Border Services Agency what to do. And the agency tracked him down working illegally at another business.

“At that point he’d been told very clearly by me that he did not have a valid work permit and he chose to work somewhere else anyway,” she said.

“So, to me, it’s fairly clear that he knew it was illegal.”

The second worker, Francis Dura, also had his story contradicted by his former employer.

He’d spent five years working in Dubai before applying to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program.

He paid a company $3,500 to find him a job and then paid his own airfare to Canada, which was $650, he said.

The employer is supposed to pay for both.

Canadian Tire No. 611 in Calgary told him there was no longer a job available when he arrived, said Dura.

He was alone, penniless and hungry.

So he contacted his aunt in Whitehorse. She flew him north, he said.

But Dura never showed up for work, or even the initial interview, said Chris Pustowka, owner of the Calgary Canadian Tire.

“The information we got was that he was taking some time to visit family or friends up north,” said Pustowka.

Pustowka hired Dura through Platinum Care, a company that specializes in matching employers and foreign workers.

He never heard from Dura, and Platinum found Pustowka another employee.

Platinum Care officials told the News Dura arrived on January 16. He was told his start date and orientation would be March 1. Between these dates, he decided to visit Yukon relatives.

On March 4, Dura contacted Platinum with his contact information and was told to return for orientation.

He decided to stay in the Yukon to apply for permanent residence status under the Provincial Nominee Program.

Dura signed a waiver relinquishing his right to work with Canadian Tire, the agency said.

It last heard from him in mid-April, and he was working at Tim Hortons.

When Tim Hortons’ managers discovered Dura was an illegal worker, he was suspended pending his application’s approval.

He was accepted to the territorial program, but not before arrest by border services.

At the time, he was living with Verdeflor. When officers returned with Verdeflor to get his paperwork, Dura panicked and hid in a closet.

He feared police, he said.

Dura was found and arrested for working without a permit.

With tears in his eyes, Dura claimed he’d been jailed for 24 hours, denied contact with his aunt, taken to Vancouver in handcuffs and put into leg shackles before a court appearance.

Canadian Boarder Services Agency did not respond to interview requests before press time.

Wednesday, Dura faced a hearing that would determine whether he could stay in Canada. Legal Aid lawyers have told him to prepare to be sent back to the Philippines.

Verdeflor faces a hearing on July 20. He’ll probably be sent home.

“I don’t think it’s fair to blame me,” said Baltimore. “I don’t think he’d be in this situation if he’d been honest and up front.”

The labour federation should have talked to the employers, she added. “Employers aren’t necessarily bad guys just because we’re employers.”

The other 10 workers complaints cited by the federation of labour are just rumour and gossip, said Brent Slobodin, the assistant deputy minister of advanced education, which runs the Yukon Nominee Program.

Immigrants “can come to us or they can go to labour standards to make a complaint,” he said.

The government has heard complaints of insufficient hours.

But most of these misunderstandings have been resolved, he said.

Contact Chris Oke at