Migrant Workers Protest Over Alleged Unpaid Work

Migrant workers protest Kitsilano developer and contractor for unpaid wages

By Graeme Wood
Vancouver Sun
March 20, 2010

Migrant workers contracted to work on an upscale condo development in Kitsilano say they are owed $60,000 in wages, and after filing a complaint with the Employment Standards Branch they took to the street in protest for their cause Saturday.

In white balaclavas and shirts about 50 workers and supporters marched to the front steps of the Pulse, a seven-story, 74-unit condominium complex on Broadway at Maple Street.

The shirts were emblazoned with messages denouncing Bastion Development Corporation and its contractor HDM Hudson Enterprises for what the workers claimed is nonpayment of wages owed to 17 workers, not following basic labour laws, and failing to produce proper employee records.

Some workers also allege they were falsely told by HDM Hudson they would receive working papers that would allow them to stay in Canada following the completion of the condo, which has units selling for up to $1.3 million.

Many of the workers came from Mexico and at the protest site declined to give their names for fear of repercussions.

They voiced disillusionment over the treatment they say they received, which included requirements to work long hours, sometimes seven-days a week, while they only received small advances on their pay, with some claiming they are owed as much as $4,000 in back wages.

The complaint to the Ministry of Labour protects the privacy of the workers and was filed in January, according to Erika del Carmen Fuchs, a labour and social justice activist who helped the migrant workers with the process.

“This is a clear example of the situation that migrant workers face in Canada,” said Fuchs.

RDM Hudson could not be reached by The Vancouver Sun, however, Kim Maust, a vice-president of Bastion, said her company paid its contractor in full and has no involvement in the workers' unpaid wages claim.

She said Bastion paid RDM Hudson a lump sum to perform finishing work such as painting and following that Bastion has no responsibility for what is alleged to have happened after.

“We've paid out the contractor,” she said.

Maust added that Bastion has no obligation to provide employee records to the ministry because the workers were not theirs, they were hired by the contractor.

“We hope RDM and the migrant workers come to an amicable solution,” said Maust.

Fuchs contends Bastion is still responsible for the records.

“Our understanding is they are supposed to give sign-in records,” she said.

Fuchs said they proceeded with the claim on the understanding that the Employment Standards Act requires an employer to keep records of employee names, birth dates, wages, and hours worked. Furthermore, payroll records must be kept for two years.

Greg Barber, who has worked in construction for 30 years, came to the rally on Saturday because he has a friend who is owed wages and he doesn't believe Bastion can wash its hands of the situation.

“Bastion has had to have known that the bid from this company was so low that it was ridiculous,” Barber said.

“And our position is they do have those records. RDM Hudson certainly knows who worked for them.”