Financial woes for Edmonton man waiting weeks for paycheque

Edmonton machinist Tom Kenney says he and his colleagues have not been paid wages owed to them since the beginning of the year.

'I want what’s owed to me. I can’t work for free. I have bills to pay.'

Machinist Tom Kenney looked for work at an Edmonton job fair Monday, even though he is employed full-time.

Tom Kenney hasn't lost his job, yet his credit cards are maxed out and the bills are piling up.

The machinist hasn't been paid for wages owed to him since the beginning of the year.

"I don't have any money at all," Kenney said. "I have car payments, I have rent, I have credit cards. I don't know what to do here."

"It's just the uncertainly of what I'm going to do. Technically, I'm not laid off. I'm not fired."

Kenney began working for Chips (2002) Inc. in Edmonton three years ago. The trouble started in August.

Sometimes his paycheque would be late by a few days, sometimes a couple of weeks. But this is the longest he and his co-workers have gone without being paid. Last week, they stopped going to work.

"It's been going on for so long,  I've just come to the point where I've had enough," Kenney said. "I want what's owed to me. I can't work for free. I have bills to pay."                                               

I want what's owed to me. I can't work for free. I have bills to pay.- Tom Kenney

He said he has tried but can't find other work. If he was laid off he could at least qualify for employment insurance, and said some colleagues are now liquidating and deferring mortgage payments to stay afloat.

"It's terrible. At the end of the day, we just need to get paid. We're working," he said.

CBC contacted owner Wayne Rutherford. He said the extreme slowdown in the drilling industry has taken a toll on Chips, and he is also having internal management issues.

"I feel horrible," Rutherford said. "It's 100 percent my responsibility and I feel terrible for that."

He said 90 per cent of the company's business is related to the drilling industry, and several customers have reduced the work they send. He said Chips is now refinancing.

'Employees will get paid'

Over the past 18 months, Chips has laid off 80 per cent of its staff, with more likely to go. But Rutherford insists everyone will be paid.

"One hundred per cent. Employees will get paid," Rutherford said. "Time frame? I honestly can't give a time frame, because really it relies on our customers."

Rutherford said he managed other businesses over the past few years and hasn't been directly involved with Chips until the past two months. He said he met with staff in January to explain they were in for a couple of tough months as he worked to get things back on track.

Rutherford is currently in British Columbia, where he owns another business, Okinshaw Water. He said he hopes to resolve the payment issues when he is back in Edmonton on Friday, or early next week.

On Wednesday, Kenney attended a job fair with thousands of others. He is now waiting to hear if he qualifies for employment insurance. He has also filed a complaint with Employment Standards, but said it would take five months before his case would even be reviewed.

"It's hard to think about that far into the future,' Kenney said. "I'm just hoping that I can pick up another job in the meantime."

A government spokesperson said complaints are investigated by an Employment Standards Officer. If a company is found to owe money, the employer is ordered to pay. Employment Standards can seize assets of an employer who does not pay, including money owed to that employer.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca@andreahuncar

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