Immigrant tree planters who were forced to toil for long hours without adequate food or shelter will be paid for their back-breaking work.
The B.C. Employment Standards Branch has ordered Surrey-based Khaira Enterprises to pay the roughly 30 workers more than $225,000 in unpaid wages.
The workers, most of them landed immigrants from Burundi and the Republic of Congo, were sent to remote camps around B.C. and endured what were described as "slave like" conditions, before an investigation began in 2010.
In July, the workers came forward alleging they weren't provided with safe drinking water, adequate food or bathroom facilities while they were clearing brush and tree planting at a job site near Golden, B.C. They also claimed they were subject to racist comments and even death threats from their supervisors.
After the complaints were lodged, the province investigated the worksite and terminated a contract it had with Khaira. It also prohibited the Surrey-based company from bidding on any government projects for one year.
"Under government money, funded by the public, these people were allowed to be treated like third-class citizens in a Third World country. And the only way we're going to stop that is to investigate why no one enforced any of the rules," said B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair in July 2010.
Sinclair also said Khaira failed to obtain a health permit or inform WorkSafe B.C. and the Ministry of Forests about the project.
...with files from The Canadian Press