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Aquilini family ordered to pay over $130K in back wages to migrant workers

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Eric Zimmer May 17, 2019 4:59 pm

Widely known as the family that owns the Vancouver Canucks, the Aquilinis have been found in violation of BC’s labour laws in connection with one of their other many business ventures – a blueberry farm in Pitt Meadows.

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A written decision from the province’s Labour Employment Standards branch stated that it found the Employment Standards Act was contravened in connection with the operation of the Aquilini-owned Golden Eagle Blueberry Farm.

In laying out reasons for the decision, Sukh Kaila, Delegate of the Director of Employment Standards, wrote that the office received complaints on behalf of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) who were hired to work on the farm, in connection with a misrepresentation of the hours per-week that the TFWS would work.

The ruling noted that a total 174 TFWs came from Guatemala to work on the farm, with the expectation they would be working for 40 hours a week, at a rate of $11.35 an hour.

However, they had only worked about a month before they had their hours cut back.

As a result, BC’s Employment Standards branch received a complaint about the situation from the Migrant Workers Dignity Association (MWDA) – who were acting as an advocate for the workers – in September of 2018.

Among the issues in the complaints, the MWDA alleged that the workers were subject to “improper” tax deductions, and that wages were paid “inappropriately,” although no specification was given as to what this meant.

The MDWA also claimed that the TFWs made payments ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 in order to secure employment, and that the payments were “collected by an individual named Henry back in Guatemala. No information was provided regarding names of individuals who had paid, payment method, or payment dates.”

Other aspects of the complaints revolved around final wages not being paid out before the workers returned to Guatemala, and that worker health-related issues were not addressed by the employer.

Kaila wrote that based on the evidence, the employer was found to be in contravention of the Section 8 of the Employment Act, by representing to the TFW’s that they would be paid for 40 hours each week they worked.

“The employment contract did not outline there might be fluctuations in the hours available to the TFW’s… and the Employer admits that the TFW’s were not given 40 hours of work each week.”

As a result of the proceedings and the findings, Kaila wrote that Francesco, Paolo, and Roberto Aquilini, CPI-Cranberry Plantation Inc., Global Coin Corporation, Lewis and Harris Trust Management Ltd., and Geri Partnership carrying on business as Golden Eagel Blueberry Farm would be required to pay a total of $133,632.56 in back wages.

The Aquilinis were also fined $500 for breaking the law.

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