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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Belizian temporary foreign workers docked pay for rent in corporate apartment

Foreign workers recruited from Belize are accusing McDonald's Canada of treating them like "slaves," by effectively forcing them to share an expensive apartment - then deducting almost half their take-home pay as rent.

"When we arrived at the airport, they said, 'We already have an apartment for you,' so at that point we already know we don't have a choice of where to live," said Jaime Montero, who came to Edmonton with four others in September to work at McDonald's.

"We had to live there. We were told this is what we are doing," said another worker who didn't want to be named because he still works for McDonald's.

The Belizeans said their dream of making good money in Canada to send to their families quickly shattered. Instead, they pocketed less than $800 per month - which they said was barely enough to live on.

"You work for us now, so we are your owners. It's like that, you know," said Montero. "We felt like slaves. They just brought us and threw us on the side."

Records from three employees show they made $11 an hour working at various McDonald's locations and the company took $280 from their pay for rent, bi-weekly. Their remaining take-home pay for the same pay periods was roughly $350.

"[The apartment lease] contracts are signed by McDonald's. All of our bills - utility bills - were billed [to us] under the name of McDonald's," said Montero.

"They brought us here and they are this big huge corporation. We felt that we didn't have a chance to even voice our opinion to them because they had brought us here so they could ship us back whenever they wanted to," said Montero. "It was like modern day slavery."

No choice but to pay

McDonald's housed them in a penthouse apartment in downtown Edmonton, even though they worked on the southern outskirts of the city. The corporation signed a six-month lease, which the workers said they were expected to honour as tenants.

"It was too far from work and it was very expensive," said Montero, who said it took him an hour and a half to get to work by public transit.

"They actually said even if we leave the apartment and go rent another apartment, that McDonald's would still deduct the rent from our salary," said the other worker.

Since recent Go Public reports about McDonald's practices with foreign workers, they said the corporation required all staff to sign an agreement, stipulating they would not speak to the media.

McDonald's fired Montero in November, after he said managers accused him of complaining online about the company and intimidating other workers, which he and the other Belizeans insisted is not true.

"It was very unfair the way they did it...this was such a blow to me," said Montero. He was also evicted from the apartment. He still has a work permit, but hasn't been able to find another job.

"I even slept once outside in the cold. Then I found out about homeless shelters and I stayed out at the homeless shelters," he said.

"Instead of making money here in Canada my family have had to send money."

The rental contracts show McDonald's paid $2,359 per month to rent the suite in the Boardwalk building. The corporation didn't pay utilities or other extra costs.

Five workers paying $280 bi-weekly works out to $3,030 per month. That suggests McDonald's charged them $600 more for rent than what it paid. Go Public pointed out that discrepancy to McDonald's, but received no explanation.

The lease expired at the end of February and the Belizeans have since found a more affordable apartment.

"It's not easy and it's not cheap to be here," said Montero.

Government investigating

Employment Minister Jason Kenney told Go Public if the workers felt coerced to rent a place they didn't want to live in, that would warrant investigation.

"No one, including an employer, can force anyone to live in a particular place. People are free to choose where they live," said Kenney, whose department said it is looking into this case.

"It doesn't matter whether they are a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or temporary resident, they have full mobility rights. And if any employer is somehow using ways to coerce people to stay in a particular place that would be illegal."

Montero and the others were recruited in Belize by Actyl, a company that brings in workers from several countries for McDonald's in Western Canada.

He said Actyl's president Linda West made promises to workers that didn't come true.

"It's like a big scam they were doing in Belize - just hiring a bunch of Belizeans to come to Canada," said Montero.

Actyl has told Go Public it is a "no fee" agency, suggesting it doesn't charge foreign workers for anything. However, receipts show they paid for visa processing and medical fees. They said they also paid bus fare to the Cancun airport and other expenses, all totalling $600 Cdn each.

According to the workers, West told them McDonald's would reimburse them for all of that once they were in Canada.

Promises broken, workers say

"What she was saying was so sweet to us," said the unnamed worker.

The Belizeans said McDonald's never did pay them back. The employment minister said most other employers do cover all the foreign workers' costs.

"The general practice as I understand it is that employers bringing folks in from abroad do reimburse them for the cost of their work permits and we do require that the employer pays for the travel costs," said Kenney.

The Belizeans said West also promised they would make a lot of their money working overtime, but once they were in Canada, McDonald's said there would be none of that.

"We were more excited because of the overtime, which was promised at $16.50 [an] we weren't worrying much about the regular pay," said Montero.

"McDonald's [said later] it does not give overtime to foreigners."

The job offers they signed in Belize list the possibility of overtime pay. The employment contract actually states McDonald's will not provide housing.

"In Belize, there was nothing in the contract about where we would live," said the unnamed worker.

When Go Public asked Linda West if she promised the workers overtime and reimbursement for costs, she answered, "Those statements are completely false."

Montero said they feel ripped off by the whole experience.

"I was making more money in Belize [working construction] than I made here in McDonald's in Canada," he said.

NDP employment critic Jinny Sims said in light of all the recent Go Public reports about McDonald's practices, the government should suspend all pending foreign work permits for its restaurants.

"They have demonstrated that they are absolutely abusing this program," said Sims.

"To say you are living in company quarters and we are going to deduct your rent and if you dare say you don't like where we put you we're going to charge you anyway...that seems like indentured labour to me."

McDonald's Canada spokesperson Richard Ellis confirmed the terms of the apartment rental arrangement. He also responded to all of this by pointing out Montero is disgruntled.

"He was let go after only two months on the job and within his probationary period," said Ellis. "Respectfully, I suggest the input of an obviously disgruntled former employee is hardly the type of information you should be using to base your report."


Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,461
I don't know these exact details, but have heard similar from Belizeans who accepted seasonal jobs from the cruise ship tourist village shops in other countries. No less than indentured slavery. Actyl has an office in Belize actively recruiting for McDonalds. We still have indentured slavery in Belize within certain communities of immigrants.

Belize based travel specialist
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Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 174
Before clicking on "Source", I already guessed what the source was. The CBC is getting less funding from the same government who has the temporary foreign workers program. Life must really suck when you get placed in an expensive penthouse apartment ......

Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,479
Other news agencies like The Globe and Mail and Vancouver Sun have been running similar stories for some time. Tim Horton's is currently being sued by recruited foreign workers and the case is now in Supreme court.

It's one thing to choose to rent an expensive penthouse apartment, it's different when you are forced to when you can't afford it.

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 6,267
Sounds like the Blakes on AC.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Belizean Recruited To Work In Canada Criticizes Job Programme

In December of 2012, we told you about the Canadian company named ACTYL which was in Belize recruiting workers for McDonald's. Hundreds flocked to their interview sessions at the Radisson and many were eager for the opportunity to earn as much as 10 US Dollars per hour - even if it meant flipping burgers in a cold country. But, now a report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation says that at least one disgruntled Belizean worker is calling it slavery. Jaime Montero has lashed out against McDonald's - and for that he has been fired, evicted from the McDonald's apartment and ended up in a homeless shelter. But, tonight, his claims are making headlines in that country. CBC network reported on the story:

Montero was fired in November and evicted from the apartment. He still has a work permit, but has been unable to find another job. And while his plan was to send money back to Belize, he says his family is now sending him money while he tries to find a job.

Canada's employment Minister Jason Kenney - whose department said it is looking into the case - told the CBC network that if the workers felt forced to rent a place they didn't want to live in, that would warrant investigation.

Montero also claims that they spent 600 Canadian dollars for medical screening, visa processing and the bus fare to Cancun which they say ACTYL promised to re-imburse them, but did not. ACTYL's Linda West denied to the CBC Network that any such promise was made.

Channel 7

Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 2,000
Maybe Belize should issue a travel advisory against travel to Canada? smirk

Formerly from somewhere on a beach in Belize
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 174
It's hard to imagine that none of them asked in advance about where they were going to live. An apartment was secured for them where vacancy rates are extremely low....good luck trying to find a place on your own with no employment history in Canada. The lease has expired. Could you imagine the uproar if they were placed in substandard housing and forced to work overtime? As disgruntled as Mr. Montero is, he doesn't appear to be pleading for airfare home smile

Joined: Jul 2013
Posts: 47
The advisory warning against travel to Canada is on the weather channel every morning smile

Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 43
I think this is a case of false expectations,not realising the higher cost of living in Canada
the temp foreign worker program generally works best for people lookingto eventually staying in Canada. the idea of being able to send bucket loads of money is unrealistic and should be conveyed to the applicants
I could only imagine the backlash of bringing workers in and not having some sort of accommodation for them

honesty is needed on the hirers part and a little research is needed on the part of potential employees

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