Filipino workers allowed to stay in Canada as border officials investigate employer
In a rare decision, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has agreed to allow 29 temporary workers from the Philippines to stay in the country while their employer is investigated.
The workers crowded into immigration lawyer Elizabeth Wozniak’s Halifax office today to hear the good news.
“Everybody gets an open work permit. Those who need temporary permits will get those as well,” says Wozniak. “Nobody’s status in Canada will be jeopardized.”
“Right now we’re celebrating,” says temporary worker Richelle Villanueva. “We have our permits. We can stay in Canada.”
The workers’ futures looked uncertain after Canada Border Services agents searched the Mantolino Property Services offices and arrested a man involved with the company two weeks ago.
Most of the workers were brought from the Philippines to work for the company as cleaners in 13 buildings owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Some of the workers say it cost them thousands of dollars to get a job with the company, and Villanueva says they weren’t even paid minimum wage by the Jani-King sub-contractor.
Pay stubs obtained by CTV News show two employees worked roughly 100 hours over two weeks in March, but their pay cheques were for less than $700, which means they were paid less than $7 an hour.
Last week, there were concerns the workers might be forced to leave Canada because their work permits are tied to their jobs. But Wozniak pleaded their case to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
“This absolution is a one-off, a very exceptional situation with a lot of people affected,” says Wozniak.
Once Halifax Mayor Mike Savage learned of the situation, he wanted the prime contractor, Jani-King, to take over the job of cleaning the 13 municipal buildings from the subcontractor. He also wants the rights and jobs of the workers to be protected.
“What I’m pleased about is that there’s been a resolution to this,” says Savage.
“It’s really a great help for us, not just for us, but for all our Filipino people here in Nova Scotia,” says Liza Alacantara, one of the workers who clean city hall.
Neither Citizenship and Immigration Canada nor Jani-King offered comment on the matter.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant