The Yukon government has reopened an investigation into allegations that a local business is exploiting its workers.
The move follows a CBC report on two workers at Tags Food and Gas who say that they have been forced to pay the owner back $3 for every hour worked.
The Filipino workers, who are in the territory under the Yukon Nominee Program, have a contract that guarantees them $13 an hour.
The owner of Tags, Preet Sidhu, couldn’t be reached for comment.
This is not the first time that allegations like this have been made against him.
Back in February, two other workers filed complaints against Sidhu accusing him of something similar. The results of that investigation were inconclusive.
After the CBC report aired this week, Education Minister Scott Kent, whose department runs the nominee program, called for the investigation to be reopened.
“I felt that was enough to warrant taking another look at the file,” he said.
The workers who spoke with the CBC haven’t yet filed formal complaints, said Kent, but if the allegations stand up, Tags could be banned from the program.
Since the nominee program started in 2006, 147 businesses have taken part. Fewer than 10 have been banned because of violations.
“We’re certainly committed to protecting the integrity of the Yukon Nominee Program,” said Kent. “It’s been a tremendous success, not only for providing Yukon employers with the workers they need to be able to operate their businesses, but also for enriching the culture and the community as a whole.”
When a worker is brought to the territory through the program, the employer, employee and the Yukon government enter into a contract that sets out wages and the terms of employment.
The wages have to be equal to regional averages for the job.
Nominee workers have two years to apply for permanent residency status. Once they obtain residency, their contract becomes void and the worker is free to take a job anywhere in Canada.
Over the last six years, 633 people have gone through the program. There are currently 460 people in the program, the majority of whom are from the Philippines.
“I think they’ve made a tremendous contribution,” said Kent. “They’ve enhanced our community greatly.”
In response to the allegations levelled in the CBC’s report, the NDP is calling for an audit of the nominee program.
But Kent doesn’t think that’s what’s needed right now.
“I think the most important thing is to let the investigation run its course,” he said.
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