Filipino cafe employees accuse employers of abuse

By Rowena Papasin, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Dec. 18, 2013

VANCOUVER, Canada – More employees are coming forward with their horrific stories, after a Filipino employee spoke up about abuse.

Richard Pepito came to Canada in 2009, as one of 12 Filipino temporary foreign workers hired at the Fernie BC branch of Tim Hortons. But last May, Tim Hortons’ franchise owner, Pierre Pelletier allegedly forced Pepito to quit as assistant manager, after an altercation. He was asked to go back to work the next day. But after the anguish and humiliation, Pepito said he’s had enough.

“I was harrassed. He was shouting at me, with his fingers pointing at me. After more than four years working there, I was done. I decided not to go back because I could not take it anymore,” he said.

Things turned even worse, as Pelletier held the threat of deportation over him and the other TFWs. The owner allegedly cheated them of their overtime pay. Pelletier reportedly wrote them cheques, but made them cash these right away and demanded back a portion of the pay.

“His harassing us is a big concern. When he’s upset, he would threaten us with deportation. We’re stressed thinking about what will happen to our family back home, if we lose our jobs,” he added.

Pepito added the owner also charged them fees to renew their work permit, which by law, should be shouldered by the employer.

Filipino Canadian MLA Mable Elmore stressed the TFWs endured years of intimidation before Pepito and his co-worker Heide Kibanoff finally brought their complaint before the BC Employment Standards Brach.

“The went through threats that they’re going to be deported, they’re going to be sent home, going to get in trouble for coming forward with their complaints. They don’t have rights; they’re not entitled to bring a case forward. So it’s really a testament to their courage that they’re willing to step forward and speak out,” Elmore said.

Meantime, Tim Hortons assured they are cooperating with the ongoing investigation. In a statement, the company said, “We continue to feel good about the process we have in place so that together with our owners, Tim Hortons can continue offering a strong working environment for temporary foreign workers and all of our teams.”

Olga Petrycki, senior manager for public affairs of Tim Hortons added that a process is in place to ensure a strong working environment for TFWs.

But Elmore said government protection for these temporary workers is not enough, pointing out, “The government should monitor the employers to ensure that the rights of the temporary foreign workers are protected.”

Pepito hopes their action will encourage other abused TFWs to speak out and defend their rights.

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  • Kikay Pang0
    19 December 2013 at 3:30 am - Reply

    Sounds fabricated story by a Filipino who couldn’t stand the pressure at work. .