McDonald’s is under federal investigation over possible abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker program at a franchise outlet in B.C.

"The pattern is that the temporary foreign workers are getting more shifts and that the Canadians are getting less,” said employee Kalen Christ, a McDonald’s "team leader" who has worked at the Victoria location for four years.

As a result of Go Public’s inquiries, the government has suspended all pending foreign worker permits for the three McDonald’s locations owned by franchisee Glen Bishop and has blacklisted his franchise from using the program, pending the outcome of the probe.

“Many, many people have been complaining about it,” said Christ.

Federal tip line

The federal government says it wants to hear from any other employee or job applicant from any McDonald's or other workplace nationwide who feels they have been negatively affected by the temporary foreign worker program.

Kenney's office provided the following phone number and email address for confidential tips:

1-800-367-5693
integrity@servicecanada.gc.ca

Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s office said investigators now want to hear from any other affected employees or job applicants, from any McDonald’s outlets in Canada.

The government probe began after Christ told Go Public the fast food outlet is bringing in Filipino workers while cutting local staffers’ hours and turning away dozens of seemingly qualified Canadians seeking jobs.

“I saw them walk in and apply. I saw the resumés, and there were lots,” said Christ. He said he has seen 50 resumés submitted by local applicants at the Pandora Avenue franchise in recent months.

“It’s sad. Some of them would have university on their resumé, and they weren’t being hired, even at McDonald’s.”

He said a manager told staff the store wasn’t hiring because up to nine new Filipino workers were coming, who still haven’t arrived.

“I don’t understand how they could even use an excuse like that,” said Christ.

Filipinos in, Canadian out

McDonald’s confirmed the three Victoria locations have 26 temporary foreign workers on staff. Christ said that out of 11 of those who work at his store, seven came in recent weeks.

Tim Turcot is a 21-year-old local resident who said he applied to work there during the same period. He wasn’t hired, despite his four years of restaurant experience.

“I don’t know why they didn’t hire me. I told them I am available 24/7 and just never got the job,” said Turcot.

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Tim Turcot, 21, says he's dropped off 60 resumés at various McDonald's locations in the last two years. He says he has restaurant experience and told the manager at the Victoria Pandora Avenue location that he could work night or day, but never got a call back. (CBC)

He said he's dropped off 60-odd resumés at several McDonald’s locations on Vancouver Island in the last two years. He’s since found work at another restaurant.

When asked what it was like being shut out of McDonald’s during a time of 14 per cent youth unemployment, he said, “It’s not fun. Why not give us [Canadian applicants] a chance, instead of people who don’t actually live here yet?”

Federal rules say employers can’t hire even one temporary foreign worker if there is a qualified Canadian available for the job.

“It feels like laws are being broken here. And the fact they can get away with it — and it takes someone [junior] like me to come out and say something — is kind of horrifying,” said Christ.

Tough words from employment minister

"On April 3, 2014, I became aware of very serious allegations that a McDonald’s franchise owner in Victoria, British Columbia broke the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program,” said a statement Jason Kenney issued Sunday.

"[On Friday], inspectors from my department did an on-site inspection at the location in Victoria and I suspended all Labour Market Opinions and work permits in process...[as] I have reasonable grounds to believe that this employer provided Employment and Social Development Canada with false, misleading or inaccurate information.”

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Employment Minister Jason Kenney's department has blacklisted the Victoria franchise from bringing in temporary foreign workers and has suspended the work permits of several Filipinos who haven't arrived yet. (CBC)

Kenney is overseeing a major overhaul of the rules, which has made it tougher for companies to bring in temporary foreign workers. Rule breakers can be barred from the program and will soon face stiff fines, too.

“If we hear cases like that … we will not tolerate it,” said Kenney. “They will be put on the blacklist. And as soon as the monetary fines are in place, we will be throwing the book at them.”

Franchise owner Glen Bishop refused to talk about the complaints, but said, “We have nothing to hide.” He also assured Go Public Christ would not face repercussions for speaking out.

“They’re doing it right under our nose,” said Christ. “It doesn’t look like they are too afraid of anything going wrong here.”

Local employees feel shortchanged 

Christ said several current employees have had their hours slashed, while the Filipino workers get full-time shifts.

“Everyone at our store is complaining about it. It’s become a standing joke, that we are going to have to learn their language in order to work on the floor.”

Christ said he’s trained the foreign workers, all the while striving for a promotion. Still, he said, he and other current employees get the short end of the stick.

“I want to work hard, and I want to be rewarded for that. And the fact that me working hard — it’s not even enough — it just sucks so much,” said Christ.

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We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories they want to make public.

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Another employee, who didn’t want to be named, also said hours have been cut and people fear losing health benefits next, because they need full-time hours to qualify.

“There’s a guy with a kid who works here who is getting his hours cut. In a minimum-wage job. That isn’t right.”

Recent records obtained by Go Public show the foreign workers consistently worked twice as many weekly hours, on average, as the Canadian employees.

“Some of these kids live on their own, and they are having a real hard time,” said the employee. “Some of the part-time people would like to be full-time, but can’t get the hours.”

Christ said that when his hours dropped from 40 a week to 36 then 32, he complained. He said he was told the foreign workers must have full-time hours, because that is part of their contract, which McDonald’s confirmed.

'They work harder' 

Christ said a manager said all of this is happening because the Filipinos — beholden to McDonald’s for bringing them to Canada — are better workers.

“They told me that they were more reliable because they wouldn’t show up late and they work harder,” said Christ. “They do work hard — I can’t argue against that.”

Employers used to be able to pay temporary foreign workers less than Canadians, but that’s not allowed anymore.

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The Victoria franchise where Christ works has 11 temporary foreign workers on staff, while another 15 work at other outlets owned by the same franchisee. Federal government inspectors showed up there Friday to investigate the local workers' complaints. (CBC)

Interestingly, records show in this case several of the Filipino workers are paid 20 per cent more than most of the Canadian staff.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me why they are paying them more,” said the unnamed employee.

McDonald’s said that’s because some are brought in under a higher job classification — food service supervisor — which at that franchise pays $12.36 an hour. Many of the local workers are food counter attendants, who earn $10.25 per hour.

Federal classifications say food service supervisors need to have two to three years' experience. Christ still earns $10.65 hourly, despite working there longer than that.

“Why am I not being given these opportunities that I deserve, rightfully? It makes zero sense to me,” he said.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Alex Stojicevic pointed out that foreign workers who get higher job classifications have a better shot at getting permanent residency in Canada.

It's the major incentive employers and recruiters can give them for coming here, he said.

“From a Canadian perspective, though, you have to ask [McDonald’s], why aren’t you paying the Canadians the same?”

McDonald’s Canada said "variances in hourly pay are based on a myriad of reasons … just as you'd see in another business."

It also said foreign worker recruitment, hiring and staff scheduling are handled by the franchise.

“Staffing complements in an individual McDonald’s restaurant change every day. In order to get a thorough understanding of these nuances you would need to take a much more expansive review,” said spokesman John Gibson.

“McDonald’s and our franchisees utilize temporary foreign workers on an individual and as-needed basis. In terms of the temporary foreign workers of this individual franchised restaurant, it is important to note that all the recent [Filipinos] who started work in 2014 were contracted several months ago.”

McDonald's changes position after blacklisting

However, after the government blacklisted the Victoria franchisee, McDonald's Canada put out a new statement, distancing itself from that operation.

"We are currently working through the process of terminating our relationship with this franchisee," said the new statement Gibson issued Sunday.

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Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s office said investigators now want to hear from any other affected employees or job applicants from any McDonald’s outlets in Canada. (CBC)

"In addition, McDonald’s Canada will immediately undertake a comprehensive review of all corporate and franchise-operated restaurants, to ensure continued alignment with Service Canada requirements of the Temporary Foreign Worker program."

The fast food chain said it has 3,400 temporary foreign workers in its stores countrywide, out of 85,000 full- and part-time workers.

McDonald's and its franchises pay international recruitment agencies up to $2,000 for every worker they bring in.

One such agency, Actyl Group, recruits workers from the Philippines, Belize, Jamaica and Mexico, among other places. It said it brings in workers primarily for McDonald’s in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Last year, in Belize, Actyl head Linda West told a local TV reporter McDonald's needs young workers because Canada doesn't have enough.

"We have a very few young people. Our birth rate is 1.4 per cent, so we haven’t replaced ourselves, so our young adults are very, very few," West said.

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McDonald's recruits foreign workers from countries like Belize, through international recruitment agencies, which charge the employer up to $2,000 per worker. This recruitment drive in 2013 attracted hundreds of applicants wanting to come to Canada. (Channel 7 News Belize)

"The traditional McDonald’s workforce or fast food warehouse has disappeared on us, so we need other people to come in and fill those jobs."

McDonald's will host its annual hiring day in Canada on April 10, hoping to find 6,100 new local recruits.

“At McDonald’s Canada, the goal in every one of our more than 1,400 franchised and company-owned restaurants nationwide is to always hire local employees first,” Gibson said.

Stojicevic said the employee complaints raise serious doubts about McDonald's practices overall, because the rules say there is to be no negative effect on the Canadian workforce.

“The most recent changes are designed so the employer has to offer essentially the same working conditions to all of the Canadians as the foreign workers,” he said.

Gibson suggested employees such as Christ who are upset don’t know enough about how the restaurants are managed.

“In fact, this individual is a restaurant crew person and not a member of the franchisee’s restaurant management team. He has no exposure to, or experience with, managing restaurant staffing, nor does he have any context to those specific processes,” said Gibson.

Christ indicated he’s picked up more than McDonald’s might realize.

“I have been getting ‘developed’ for almost two years, being paid below that of a manager and expected to deal with [several] manager responsibilities,” he said.

“One could say I'm paid as a team leader doing a manager’s job because a team leader makes less money.”


Statement from Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Our Government will not tolerate any abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Any employer found to have broken the rules will face serious consequences. Our message to employers is clear and unequivocal — Canadians must always be first in line for available jobs.

On April 3, 2014 I became aware of very serious allegations that a McDonalds franchise owner in Victoria, British Columbia broke the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  I immediately ordered my officials to begin an urgent investigation to determine the facts.

Within 24 hours of becoming aware of these allegations, inspectors from my department did an on-site inspection at the location in Victoria and I suspended all Labour Market Opinions and work permits in process for this franchise pending the outcome of the investigation.  The Labour Market Opinions and work permits were suspended as I have reasonable grounds to believe that this employer provided Employment and Social Development Canada with false, misleading or inaccurate information.

If the investigation determines that this franchise owner broke the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, I will permanently revoke their existing Labour Market Opinions and prevent them from hiring temporary foreign workers.


Federal government tip line

The federal government says it wants to hear from any other employee or job applicant from any McDonald's or other workplace nationwide who feels they have been negatively affected by the temporary foreign worker program.

Kenney's office provided the following phone number and email address for confidential tips:

Phone: 1-800-367-5693
Email: integrity@servicecanada.gc.ca


Statement from McDonald's Canada

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Upon learning of the serious allegations raised about an independent franchisee’s operation in Victoria, BC, McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited immediately launched our own investigation at this restaurant.

At McDonald’s Canada, we do not tolerate infractions of any kind – intended or unintended – against any employees.  Our commitment to employees is to always do the right thing and with integrity.  Our corporate and restaurant employees, as well as our independent franchisees are committed to upholding this each and every day.

We are currently working through the process of terminating our relationship with this franchisee.

Temporary foreign workers represent a very small proportion of our national workforce.  We have more than 85,000 employees at McDonald’s franchised and corporate locations across Canada and only 4% of those employees are temporary foreign workers.

We will work closely with Service Canada on the audit of the Victoria, BC franchisee, and will ensure all recommendations are met. McDonald’s has a long-standing track record of compliance with Service Canada requirements. In addition, McDonald’s Canada will immediately undertake a comprehensive review of all corporate and franchise-operated restaurants, to ensure continued alignment with Service Canada requirements of the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited


Number of food counter, kitchen helper and related positions on positive labour market opinions by year in Canada

Number of temporary foreign workers
2005 0
2006 1570
2007 5850
2008 15790
2009 6715
2010 9175
2011 12345
2012 17755

Source: ESDC (Employment and Social Development Canada, Government of Canada)


Submit your story ideas

Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories they want to make public.

Submit your story ideas to Kathy Tomlinson at Go Public

Follow @CBCGoPublic on Twitter