Statement of Claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court this month.

Class action against Mac’s and immigrant recruiter

Several temporary foreign workers launched a class action in B.C. Supreme Court on Dec. 10.

He paid a firm $8,000 to arrange for a job at a Mac’s Convenience Store in Canada from his homeland of Dubai.

When he got here however, the job didn’t exist and he ended up living in homeless shelters.

Prakash Basyal’s experience is just one of many and is at the heart of a class action lawsuit being brought against Mac’s and an overseas immigration firm.

On Dec. 10, Basyal, Arthur Gortifacion Cajes, Edlyn Tesorero and Bishnu Khadka filed action against Mac’s Convenience Stores, Overseas Immigration Services Inc., Overseas Career and Consulting Services Ltd., and Trident Immigration Services.

The plaintiffs say the defendants are in breach of their employment contracts, according to the Statement of Claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

None of the allegations made in the 43-page claim have been proven in court, but provide the basis for the action against the firms.

A response to the statement has not been filed as of yet.

Carmela Allevato, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said she found the stories she heard quite disturbing.

“It really touched my heart,” she told The Leader on Friday. “(They) should have all the protections of the law and be able to build a life here.”

The Statement of Claim alleges Overseas Career Immigration Services often held large recruitment fairs in the Middle East to recruit foreign workers.

A linchpin of the initiative is the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), whereby immigrants are given work visas when companies can’t find local workers.

“Overseas charges workers approximately $8,000 to secure employment in Canada,” the statement says. “Of that fee, approximately $2,000 must be paid up front. The remainder is paid after the worker is supplied with (TFWP approvals) and an employment contract with a Canadian employer.”

In the cases being brought before the courts, that employer was allegedly Mac’s Convenience Stores.

Basyal was living in Dubai in 2012 when he was recruited at one of Overseas’ recruitment fairs.

He paid his $2,000 and was interviewed by Mac’s.

He was given an employment contract that stipulated two years of work at $11.40 an hour, with health care benefits as well.

“Mac’s would not recoup the costs of his recruitment from (Overseas),” the Statement of Claim says.

Basyal flew to Vancouver, where he was given a work permit allowing him only to work at a Mac’s store as a cashier.

A representative from Overseas “instructed Mr. Basyal to live in an apartment with six to eight other workers in Surrey, British Columbia,” the Statement of Claim says.

The job at Mac’s fell through, and Basyal was offered a job as a farm labourer for a few months. He refused.

He was then given a job at a bottle depot in Edmonton, where he worked for a month without being paid.

The Canadian Border Services Agency found out about Basyal working illegally in Edmonton and brought him to a homeless shelter in that city.

He was then moved to a homeless shelter in Vancouver.

“Mr. Basyal suffered mental distress and hardship as a result of the defendants’ conduct,” the Statement of Claim says.

The claim outlines the experience of several others, which are quite similar to that of Basyal’s.

Allevato says it’s not the first class action lawsuit filed by temporary foreign workers.

“We hope it will be the last one,” Allevato said. “We’re hoping with the new (federal) government, they’ll overhaul the whole program from the ground up.”

As lawsuits can be expensive, it’s unlikely Allevato’s clients will be able to pay for a lengthy court action.

“If at the end of the day we are successful, we get paid. If we’re unsuccessful, then we don’t,” she said.

It will take some time before the lawsuit reaches the courts, as it still needs to be certified as a class action, she said.

Doug Hartl, a spokesman for Mac’s Convenience Stores, referred to a prepared statement.

“As a policy, we do not speculate on any legal actions in the media,” Hartl said. “Should legal actions be initiated, we will respond to the courts.

“I can say Mac’s prides itself on being a good employer and does not support fraudulent or exploitive work practices.”

Calls to Overseas Immigration Services Inc. were not returned by The Leader’s press deadline Monday.