A Manitoba pork processing plant is suing a Toronto recruiter and former staffer for allegedly misleading foreign workers and persuading them to quit their jobs at the plant to work with companies from which the recruiter allegedly benefited financially.

The lawsuit — filed on Sept. 19 by HyLife Foods against Toronto recruiting company A & L Hammer Workforce Management Inc., Lily Hammer and Neepawa, Man., resident Emerson Ballad — alleges they conspired together to hurt HyLife Foods.

It's alleged Hammer convinced workers employed at the Neepawa plant to breach their employment contracts with the company by telling workers they could use their work permits for HyLife with another employer.

Workers were told the recruitment company would bring their families to Canada on tourist visas and work under the table while waiting for permits, the statement of claim alleges.

'Heard stories like this before'

Several workers at the Neepawa plant quit and went on to work for companies selected by A & L Hammer, the lawsuit alleges.

Ballad, who worked at the plant, brought workers to an orientation session as part of a bid to get workers to breach their contracts with the pork processor, HyLife alleges in court documents.

"I've heard similar stories like this before," said Diwa Marcelino, who advocates for migrant workers in Manitoba with the organization Migrante.

Marcelino said it's common for migrant workers to pay a recruitment agency $5,000 to $10,000 just to land a job most Canadians don't seem to want to do.

HyLife Foods Manitoba

HyLife Foods processes 6,500 hogs every day. The meat is sold in Canada and abroad in countries like China. (CBC)

He said often the job might have poor working conditions and workers might be enticed to find better employment, but doing that comes at a cost — most employers who use migrant workers will use a recruiter to fill their staffing needs and workers will often need to cough up thousands of dollars again just to get a new job.

"The industry has a lot of profit that they can get from migrant workers who switch jobs."

None of the allegations against Hammer and Ballad have been proven in court, and neither have returned requests for comment from CBC News.

Duo continues to recruit workers: lawsuit

HyLife Foods wants a permanent injunction from the court ordered to stop Hammer and Ballad from acting on the company's behalf, and is asking the court for an unspecified amount in damages.

HyLife Foods Neepawa

HyLife has brought hundreds of foreign workers to the town of Neepawa booming the rural Manitoba town's population. (CBC)

HyLife alleges the two continue to contact and recruit workers employed at the plant with the intent of breaching their employment contracts.

The company said in court documents that it spent a significant amount of money on recruitment, transportation and training fees to bring foreign workers to Canada.

A & L's website advertises jobs for workers in hotels, meat-processing plants, on farms and for construction projects. It has several ads on Kijiji and Indeed and recruits workers from the Philippines.

No statement of defence has been filed by either Hammer or Ballad.


Got a tip about this story? Get in touch with the CBC's Austin Grabish by phone: 204-981-7061 or by email austin.grabish@cbc.ca.