Two Jamaican migrant workers have filed complaints with the B.C. Ministry of Labour against a Richmond blueberry farmer on allegations of withholding pay.
The Ministry of Labour, Citizens Services and Open Government told the News that there have been 33 complaints against KNN Blueberries and its owner Kash Nijjer, in the past nine years.
In addition, the Employment Standards Branch has recently received two complaints (the nature of these complaints cannot be disclosed as they have not yet been resolved/closed), said spokesperson Allison Jensen.
Gil Aguilar, coordinator at the nonprofit organization, Agricultural Workers Alliance (AWA) said hes aware of the complaints but has yet to speak to the workers in question.
As far as we understand the two Jamaican workers came under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), which is a federal program between Canada and other countries, said Aguilar, from his office in Surrey. This is actually a unique case because most migrant workers do not complain publicly for fear of being deported or blacklisted.
Our basic challenge is the lack of information of where they are we are hoping to locate them and speak to them on the weekend or next week so they are aware of their rights here in Canada.
According to the ministry, there are strict penalties governing temporary foreign workers. Employers who consistently contravene the Employment Standards Act face mandatory escalating penalties as well as audits. Penalties start at $500 and can be as hefty as $10,000. Anyone who has a complaint against their employer under the Employment Standards Act can get information and assistance in person, online or through a toll-free number.
The Employment Standards Branch Agriculture Compliance Team visits farms to ensure farm owners; producers and Farm Labour Contractors (FLCs) are complying with provincial employment standards legislation, added Jensen.
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