A company criticized for doing fundraising for charities without the charities' permission is also facing heat for the way it treats its workers.
Eight former salespeople for Momentum Marketing in Winnipeg told the CBC News I-Team they worked long hours and were often paid less than minimum wage.
They said they were also required to attend unpaid training sessions that went on for up to two hours every day before their sales shifts began.
“I was getting paid very little,” said former Momentum Marketing employee Brant Townsend.
“It was hard to live week to week,” the 18-year-old said, adding he had a hard time making his rent.
Manitoba Employment Standards confirms it is investigating eight complaints against Momentum Marketing.
A video obtained by CBC News shows team leader, Mageed Salem, pumping up sales staff for campaigns right before Christmas, telling them to go out and “make some goddamn money.”
“Go out and do something. You aren’t happy with your paycheque? Go out and fix it,” Salem told workers in the video. “We aren’t paid for what we’re worth, we are paid for what we go out and do,” Salem said.
One Momentum Marketing team leader, 28-year-old Koorosh Saxton, said in an interview he was excited about the opportunity at first but once he started training, he balked.
“We would have a training system that didn’t necessarily emphasize the cause,” Saxton said. “It was more a means to an end. It was more, just getting money.”
Employees told CBC News that during the pep rallies they were required to recite a chant that went like this:
“Came with nothing, learned the steps, they took me to the field, day by day we get better and better, until we can't be beat, won't be beat.”
Townsend and 33-year-old Andy Hall sold toys for the company during the Christmas season that were donated to local charities. Both say they enjoyed the work, but not the pay or the methods they used.
Momentum Marketing is registered in Ontario by 23-year-old Brandon Farr according to incorporation paperwork. The company appears to be coordinated by a Toronto-based firm, Eagle Eye Events, along with other companies across the country.
Farr declined an interview request but in a statement to CBC News referred to the workers as “independent contractors working on commission.”
“Momentum Marketing takes the position that its salespeople are independent contractors, not employees,” Farr wrote. “At this time, I cannot comment further as these matters are currently being considered by the Manitoba Employment Standards Branch.”
But Kevin Rebeck, Manitoba Federation of Labour president, disagreed with Farr’s assessment.
Rebeck said independent contractors typically control their own work, set their own schedules, use their own tools, can change their profit levels, and can subcontract their work — factors the Momentum Marketing workers said did not apply.
“It sounds to me like people are being done wrong here and we need to fix that, and we need to use it as an example to let others know it's OK to ask questions,” said Rebeck.
He said young workers often don’t know their rights.
Belinda Desrosiers, 23, worked as an administrator for Momentum Marketing.
She said she was encouraged to bring in 20 to 30 job seekers for interviews per day. Online ads show the company is constantly hiring.
"Seeing my friends and co-workers come in there every day, down on themselves and not be able to pay their rent ... it hurt, it was hard to see," said Desrosiers.
Saxton called on governments to make sure the company honors wage arrangements and enforces some rules about training methods.
“Stand up and do something about it,” he said.