Migrant workers sue recruiter, employer in small claims court

May 29, 2018
Article Source
Toronto Star

Ryan Aporbo was desperate when he lost his job as a restaurant cleaner amid Alberta's economic recession and faced possible removal to his native Philippines.

Then the temporary foreign worker said he found an ad from Toronto-based A&L Hammer Workforce Management Inc., which recruits workers for nursing homes, construction, agriculture, factories, meat packing plants, hotels and restaurants.

Aporbo said he was told by the agency's owner, Liwayway "Lily" Miranda, that a farm in East Gwillimbury was looking for mushroom pickers. For nine months, from April 2016 to January 2017, he says he worked at the Sharon Mushroom Farm on a visitor visa instead of a work permit.

He is now among a group of Filipino workers suing Miranda, A&L Hammer and Sharon Mushroom Farm in small claims court, alleging they were improperly charged thousands of dollars in fees for legal advice and "labour market impact assessments," which are a prerequisite for the work permits they never received. They are asking for refunds.

The employer, not the workers, "has the sole responsibility in paying the cost for the processing and application fees to secure a positive labour market impact assessment," the workers say in the statement of claim.

They allege that Lily was "without authority to collect" those fees, and "instead passed all financial burdens to the plaintiffs, taking advantage of their ignorance."

They also claim that despite paying the fees, they did not receive work permits.

In a joint statement of defence, the defendants say Miranda never provided legal advice to the plaintiffs, nor did she collect fees for that purpose.

They say the fees charged to the workers covered government fees and expenses for an immigration lawyer, as well as the labour market impact assessment fees.

The statement of defence says A&L merely assisted the complainants individually in its role as a recruiter contracted by Sharon Mushroom Farm, and the farm had no agreement for services or direct engagement with the plaintiffs.

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