The Alberta government is investigating an Edmonton employment agency for possible breaches of the provincial law governing the recruitment of foreign workers.

Service Alberta wants to know whether Global Hire overcharged a woman from Mexico for immigration and resettlement services, and whether it failed to document its services and fees in a written contract as required by law.

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Adriana Castillon Santana, 35, claims Global Hire did nothing to support her when she arrived, or to help her find a new job after she got into a dispute with the owner of the restaurant that hired her.

“My experience is terrible,” Castillon told Go Public.

Castillon stayed only three weeks in Edmonton and estimates she spent several hundred dollars on visas and courier fees and for food and transportation while she was in Edmonton.

“My friends from Canada, they say this should not happen, but it happened to me. A really bad experience.”

Castillon answered an ad in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, looking for people to work in Canada.

She paid Be International People (BIP), a Global Hire affiliate, $2,500 for BIP’s “Low Skilled Worker package”. BIP’s website says the package covers immigration services and resettlement assistance in Canada.

Money refunded after call from Go Public

When contacted by Go Public, Rishi Kumar Mittal, director of both Global Hire and BIP in Edmonton, gave Castillon a full refund because he said the company had not provided all the services for which she had paid.

BIP’s website says the “Low Skilled Worker Package” includes picking up the worker at the airport and presenting her to the employer, providing help finding accommodation, helping her getting a social insurance number and medical coverage, helping setting up a bank account and telephone service, and providing ongoing help for a year including connections to other potential employers.

Rishi Kumar Mittal

Rishi Kumar Mittal, the director of both Global Hire and BIP in Edmonton, gave Castillon a full refund, saying she had not received the service she paid for. (CBC)

Castillon claims the company did none of this.

In April, she emailed BIP in Mexico to ask for help, saying she was unhappy with her job and her living arrangements, and complaining about what she called “ ridiculous sum of money” she had paid the company.

A BIP representative replied the company’s obligation to her ended once she landed in Canada.

In the email, the BIP representative appears to chastise Castillon, saying she could understand why the employer would be unhappy with her and advised her to adopt a more respectful tone or no one else would hire her.

“When I read that I was disappointed and angry,” Mittal said. “The situation was not handled with professional etiquette.”

Mittal said because Castillon case “is that serious”,  he has severed all ties with BIP in Mexico out of concern for Global Hire’s reputation.

He said Be International People in Mexico is separate from BIP in Edmonton, and was merely an “affiliate company”, despite having the same name and logo and referring Mexicans to his immigration consultancy, Global Hire.

Mittal admits there was no signed agreement between BIP, or Global Hire and Castillon, but said once her troubles became known to Global Hire’s Edmonton office, the company helped her find new accommodation and made sure her wages and return airfare were paid.

Mittal says his staff verbally offered to help find Castillon another job. Castillon said the company helped her get her earned wages and a motel room to stay in until her flight home, but nothing more.

“(Global Hire said) ‘take this money, because you leaving tomorrow.’ ”, Castillon said.

No fee for finding a job, consultant says

BIP offers packages for people wanting to work in Canada, ranging in price from $150 to $3,299 CAD.

Mittal, who is a licensed immigration consultant, described BIP as “a human development.company” which Global Hire is developing “as a worldwide branch or brand”  in several countries including Serbia and Pakistan.

According to its website “Bip enables job seekers to discover their skills and weak points, improve them and present to employers in new and efective (sic) way...to give everyone equal chance to be attractive on the work market.”

The company also offers resume preparation as well as “psychometric testing”, “eLearning” and “evaluation interviewing.”

Castillon said she believed she was paying BIP for a more basic service.

“I hire this company to find me a job,” Castillon claims.

It is illegal for a company to charge money to find someone a job in Alberta.

“There is no fee for finding a job,” Mittal insisted.

He told Go Public Castillon paid BIP for immigration services which were legally processed by him, and for resettlement assistance for which she was fully refunded.

Mittal said employers pay Global Hire to find workers but that his companies never charge workers themselves to find them a job.

“That is the mentality in many of these countries, that people pay for jobs,” he said.

“That has never been, to my knowledge, our practice to tell that to people, because we don’t get paid to find people work.”

Affiliated companies not licensed as employment agencies

None of the BIP branches are licensed by Service Alberta as an employment agency, but Mittal said the all final recruitment and immigration work is done by Global Hire, which is licenced as an employment agency.

“The affiliate company is allowed to collect fees on our behalf.”

In addition to investigating the lack of a written contract, Service Alberta wants to know if $2,500 was too much for the immigration and resettlement services Castillon was promised.

“The fees must be reasonable,” Service Alberta spokeswoman Lisa Elliott said.

“And from what I understand those fees would be called into question and we would look into the reasonableness of them.”

Elliott said under Alberta law an employment agency such as Global Hire must inform the government if it is using another company as its agent, and that the licensed company remains responsible for the actions of its agent.

Castillon said even though Global Hire refunded her money she wants others to know what happened to her.

“My big point is I don’t want it to happen to other people too,” Castillon said.

Even though Castillon’s work visa is still valid for almost two years she said she’s glad to be back in Mexico.

“Probably I don’t make a lot of money, but I’m happy. It’s my country.”