The battle between temporary foreign workers from Latin America and SNC Lavalin along with SELI Canada is now over.
Five years after winning a multi-million dollar B.C. Human Rights Tribunal award, the 40 temporary foreign workers from Costa Rica have finally been paid. The $1.25 million handed out was money owed for their work on the Canada Line rapid transit link between Vancouver and the Vancouver International Airport.
Videos of the workers receiving their cheques in Costa Rica as well as details of the settlement were discussed yesterday at a conference at the BC Teachers’ Federation Building.
The amount of money awarded was significantly lower than originally dictated by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
Charles Gordon, legal council for the Labourers’ Union Local 1611 on the tribunal case said that, “The negotiation process takes into account what the risks of the continued litigation are, . . . we were into two or three years of continued litigation at least.
“We thought given all those parameters that the offer was a reasonable offer and clearly the workers agreed, they voted unanimously.”
The workers were hired through temporary visas because they had just finished working on the same job in Costa Rica.
The workers were being paid significantly less than their European colleagues. The biggest issue addressed, in terms of their wages, was not the difference between Canadian and Costa Rican wage rates, but the fact that it was illegal to pay them that little regardless of standard rates.
Mark Olsen, business manager for the Construction & Specialized Workers’ Union said, “A few weeks into the job, when the workers get a day off and try and spend what they make, they realize ‘hold on a second here, I’m being exploited.’”
Ignacio Sanchez, one of the workers still living in Canada, said he didn’t notice he was being treated differently than other workers.
“When we worked in Costa Rica for the same company before, once the contract was finished, they offered us to come to Canada,” said Sanchez,
But they had no indication of how everything would work, said Sanchez.
Reported by Brenna Brooks