Labrador City — The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is investigating allegations by temporary foreign workers that they were forced into overcrowded living conditions.
Four former employees of Jungle Jim’s and Greco Pizza told CBC News this week that 26 foreign workers shared one house for months.
According to court documents, an investigation by the CBSA began in April 2013, after a confidential tip from a concerned citizen.
A search warrant was approved in November and performed by CBSA agents, investigating labour market opinions (LMO) and whether they were misrepresented by restaurant owners Miriam and Jeff Staples.
LMOs determine the hiring of foreign nationals as temporary foreign workers.
The former employees told CBC News that as many as six people were living in one room in the house, and there was inadequate hot water and toilet facilities.
Arthur Lorenzo told CBC he felt victimized.
“I really felt that I made the wrong move of listening and believing this couple, Miriam and Jeff Staples, who fooled a lot of Filipinos, my countrymen,” Lorenzo said.
The Aurora asked Miriam Staples for comment, but she declined. However, she told CBC News the complaints were made by former employees who had a vendetta after they were let go, and that she and her husband Jeff have been co-operative with the CBSA.
According to the court filings, claims were made that employees were housed in a 10-bedroom home, two to a room. But the former employees said the home only had five bedrooms, and that a closet was converted into sleeping quarters.
The court documents state the employees continued to pay the $300 per month agreed upon contractually, despite the fact that the occupancy rate was well in excess of the two-people-per-one-room agreement.
Jungle Jim’s corporate office issued a news release concerning the allegations of overcrowding, stating the problem was remedied within one week.
The news release, signed by Sean Brake, franchiser of Jungle Jim’s Restaurants, said the corporate office received correspondence in December 2012 from Jungle Jim’s employees of Labrador City stating there was overcrowding where they were housed.
Additional housing rectified the problem in “about a week,” the news release said, noting “The problem stemmed from the most severe short-term shortage of housing in the history of Labrador West.”
It also noted that Service Canada conducted a compliance audit for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in September 2013 and the local franchise operators were “100 percent compliant.”