A civil case due to be heard today has been settled out of court. Defendants are Bishrat and Haymi Haile and Haymi Building Maintenance and plaintiffs are Mohamed Yassin Aman Ibrahim and Sabir Mohamed Yassin.
The primary issue is wages, in that Haymi Building Maintenance doesn’t pay minimum wage. The plaintiffs are owed $26,900 (Mohamed) and $12,200 (Sabir), which is the point that was settled out of court. Other complaints against the company are failure to provide vacation pay or overtime, not issuing a statement of earnings or T4 slips and failure to withhold Canada Pension earnings or Employment Insurance.
According to Bob Deis of the Canadian Immigrant Refugee Advocacy who has brought the case forward, “They themselves (defendants) are immigrants from South Sudan. They target and hire immigrant refugees mostly from Sudan or Iraq. The refugees are being preyed upon due to their ignorance.”
While the case has been settled and the company given 10 months to pay back monies owed, it will remain open as Deis isn’t optimistic the owners will honour the agreement. The case currently remains adjourned as Deis intends to keep it active until payment has been received.
These two cases were the first to be brought forward as the two individuals were owed the most amount of money. Deis knows of sixteen other individuals, all refugees, who have worked for Haymi Building Maintenance and have been cheated out of wages.
Four of the contracts Deis knows the company held were with Superstore, Princess Auto, National Bank (downtown) and Good Life Fitness. Since the case came to light, Haymi Building Maintenance has lost some of its contracts.
Additional concerns are the company doesn’t have a business licence with the City of Medicine Hat. The workers are also unprotected as WCB premiums aren’t being paid.
Mohamed worked for the company for 13 months and should have earned, at minimum wage, $39,400 but was only paid $12,700. Mohamed’s son, Sabir, worked a period of six months, and should have earned $16,900 but was only paid $4,680. Mohamed and Sabir are currently working at the Red Hat Cooperative, where they also worked last year, and now understand what their statement of earnings should look like along with proper engagement between employer and employee.
Mohamed and Sabir spent 15 years in a refugee camp and neither believed the case would deliver any type of justice. Since Deis has been working with them over the past two years, their confidence has increased as they learn how things are supposed to operate in Canada.
Alberta Standards is the reigning agency for enforcement of unpaid wages; however, they will not engage in any case where monies owed is greater than six months ago. The agency can also fine for other violations, such as not providing a statement of earnings and late payment of wages.
Another issue that has come up with this case is how difficult it is to receive a response from Alberta Standards. There is no local number but even when the number for the Calgary or Edmonton office is used it won’t allow the caller to talk to a live person and disconnects them when the request is made on the phone menu.
Using the online forms, Deis submitted two complaints, one four months ago and another two months ago, and neither has received a response yet. Deis plans to talk with MLA Michaela Frey regarding why the system doesn’t seem to be working.
SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News