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A group of temporary foreign workers hired by the Denny's restaurant chain in Vancouver is suing the company for $10 million.

Fifty workers from the Philippines say they were hired to work at Denny's as cooks and servers through the Canadian Temporary Foreign Worker Program last fall.

But they allege they were cheated out of wages and accuse Denny's of not paying back the recruitment and processing fees they were forced to provide in order to come to Canada.

"Very vulnerable workers that are being brought over under the temporary foreign workers program shouldn't be taken advantage of," said their lawyer, Charles Gordon.

The workers initially sought help from MigranteBC, an organization representing temporary workers from the Philippines, said spokeswoman Jane Ordinario.

Processing fee

"They had to pay $6,000 for the processing fee and they still owe money from that, plus they're not working enough hours," Ordinario alleged. "And if they complain, they'll be laid off. So emotionally, it's really affecting them."

Ordinario said that because temporary foreign workers are tied to the employers who sponsor them, if they are laid off they cannot try and find work elsewhere.

The approval of temporary foreign workers should be skills-specific, not employer-specific, said Ordinario.

She said other employers, which she would not name, are alleged to be taking advantage of workers in a similar ways.

"This is a new program, so there are lots of loopholes."

Denny's has not filed a statement of defence and declined requests for interviews. But the company issued a brief statement Wednesday saying the company is a strong supporter of workplace ethics and will investigate all of the allegations.

With files from the CBC's Priya Ramu and Ben Hadaway