Thursday, 28 May 2009

Wage Theft in Saskatchewan


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Coming up to 2 years ago, I posted a blog article entitled: Regina Restaurant Rips Off Workers.

It's a sorry tale of about how the owners of a restaurant called Poverino's Pasta Grill in Regina, Saskatchewan closed up their doors unannounced and left approximately 135 (most young and student) workers holding the bag and cheated out of over $62,000.00 in unpaid wages.

In other words, the owners of Poverino's Pasta Grill stole over $62,000 from a bunch of unsuspecting, trusting, and obviously vulnerable young workers.

So, in the 2 years since Poverino's closed the doors, and the nearly 2 years since they were found by the Department/Ministry of Labour to be guilty of violating the Saskatchewan Labour Standards Act and cheating the workers out of their wages. And since Poverino's has been ordered to pay the 62 grand to the workers, how much money do you think those 135 have received?

Well, according to my information, NOT A SINGLE NICKEL.

At a recent meeting with officials of the Ministry of Labour, I raised this matter again. I was attending a consultation meeting regarding the governments plans to reduce the minimum age of work to 15, in sectors including the notoriously bad "restaurant industry". I said I was skeptical and concerned that young workers would be protected because they aren't being adequately protected now. I questioned why individual workers should have the responsibility for enforcing the governments laws. Why is it necessary for a student to take an employer to court, in order for the employer to comply with the laws of the land? That's the government's job.

This past week, I received the response linked here. It confirms that employers can get away with theft by "positioning themselves in a 'judgment proof' environment".

What do you think would happen if one of those workers took $62,000 out of the cash register and high-tailed it out of town? Do think the cops would be on the look-out? Do you think if they found the crook, that they'd arrest him and toss him in the slammer? You bet!

What we are witnessing in Saskatchewan is government sanctioned corporate theft. When is somebody in the government going to do something about it?

5 comments:

Markus said...

Brutal!

Andy said...

Unfortunately, this is the prevailing situation in most countries. Here in France though, we do have a fund which reimburses victims of corporate theft. So, if a worker, young or old, gets his runaway boss condemned by the appropriate court, and he can't be found or is deemed bankrupt, other workers, through their taxes, will club together to pay the bosses debts. He will also be let off of unpaid contributions to pension, sickness and unemployment funds. Isn't that great? The old argument whereby bosses take all the risks is just another lie.

Fraud Blogger said...

A solution to this problem, Larry, would be to change the laws such that wages, earned, but not yet paid, are explicitly considered 'trust funds', and hence, are the property of the employees. If a business owner breaches such trust conditions, then under such an amendment, they should be prosecutable for 'breach of trust', similar to how everyone else in society that holds money for others in trust is treated.

p.s. seems Brad Wall agreed with my previous comments about a certain former cabinet minister being too chummy with Colin Thatcher, by dumping him out of cabinet. Lol.

Larry Hubich said...

Markus, Andy and Fraud Blogger - thank you all for participating in this blog.

I have difficulty accepting that stealing from workers is any different than any other kind of stealing. Employers need to be prosecuted for theft and fined/imprisoned. Their assets should be seized, sold off and the proceeds used to pay the amount owing to the workers.

Also, I don't agree that workers should have to bail-out their co-workers because of corrupt employers. Employers should be required to insure employees against theft, by mandatory contribution to such an insurance fund.

There are provisions for "trust" arrangements contemplated in the Sask. Labour Standards Act under Section 56. In fact, as I read the act, wages due are to be held in trust, and if not held in trust are secured against the property and assets of the employer.

Further, Section 62.4 of the Act states that a certificate or decision related a wage assessment against an employer has the same force and effect as if it were a judgement obtained in the Court of Queen's Bench.

I submit to you that it is the responsibility of the government to enforce it's own legislation - not the responsibility of some 16 - 24 year old students.

The government should instruct the RCMP or a civic police force to hunt down the past owners and directors of Poverino's Pasta Grill, arrest them and charge them with theft.

And by the way - where's the mainstream media on this file?

Larry Hubich said...

p.s. Fraud Blogger, I have no idea why the Premier would dump certain individuals from his cabinet.

You appear to be convinced you know the reason why he dumped one of them. I haven't heard any other theories.