Misuse of the temporary foreign worker program continues to become public as a B.C. worker steps forward to claim he was paid less than minimum wage and threatened with death and deportation by his employer.
Anton Soloviov, 25, worked selling cosmetics and other products at mall kiosks and alleges that he and his coworkers worked hundreds of hours for no pay, while forced to live under constant threat of deportation.
“It’s all organized from the start,” said Soloviov told CBC. “They import you as a worker. Then they put you to 12-hours-a-day work…and they don’t pay you. So basically, that’s human trafficking.”
Soloviov worked for 0860005 B.C. Ltd, a company run by B.C. resident Dor Mordechai and his wife, Anna Lepski, operating kiosks at malls around B.C. including in Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre, where Soloviov worked.
Immigration officials have determined Soloviov fits in the category of a "victim of trafficking in persons," while his former supervisor Azi Qizel is under RCMP
investigation for uttering threats.
The company has reportedly been under investigation for months, but was still allowed to access the foreign worker program.
Soloviov moved to Canada from Israel in September last year after a recruitment agency told him he could earn $5000 a month. He hoped to stay and earn permanent residency and citizenship. He was made to buy his own airfare despite federal regulations requiring employers cover travel costs, and was told to lie at the border and claim to be a tourist.
The written Labour Market Opinion (LMO) issued to the company – which allowed it to hire foreign workers — said they must be paid $13 an hour and $21 an hour for any overtime. Payroll records for three of the workers show they earned an hourly salary of $0. During a two week period, one employee put in 116 hours, but received no pay.
The workers were told they were being paid a 25% commission, but also deducted $225 every two weeks for rent, and “fined” for checking their phone or talking to a coworker.
“If you look at it, it’s modern slavery. Because some people were not actually paid at all,” said Soloviov. “I got paid 50 bucks or 100 bucks in the three months I worked and that’s bad exploitation. But some people were actually slaves and ended up owing him money.”
In December, Soloviov independently investigated his employment rights and told his manager he was going to file a claim for unpaid wages. The manager allegedly flew into a rage, threatening to kill Soloviov or have him deported.
While the investigation is ongoing he has been given an open work permit for six months and is working in a temporary job.
“I'm looking to be a citizen — a normal citizen — and not a system exploiter of some sorts. I do have lots of skills,” said Soloviov. “And I don't want more young people to come here and get hurt.”