Ottawa has suspended two Labrador City restaurants from the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, concluding there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that the employer “provided false, misleading or inaccurate information” to get a positive ruling.

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As CBC Investigates reported in January, Canada Border Services is probing allegations related to the housing of foreign workers employed by Jungle Jim’s and Greco Pizza/Captain Sub in western Labrador.

At the time, four former employees of the restaurants told CBC Investigates that 26 foreign workers had shared one Labrador City split-level residence for months, in violation of their employer’s agreement with the federal government.

The business owners denied the allegations, blaming disgruntled former workers for spreading false stories.

CBSA agents executed search warrants at the home and Jungle Jim’s restaurant in Labrador City in November 2013.

No charges have been laid.

Suspension notice issued

On Sunday, Employment and Social Development Canada posted a notice on its website announcing the suspension of the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) for the two Labrador City restaurants and 59077 Newfoundland and Labrador Limited, the numbered company that operates them.

LMOs are used to hire foreign employees in areas where there is a shortage of workers.

The suspension means the LMO can no longer be used by a temporary foreign worker to obtain a work permit.

It’s not clear exactly how many positions are affected.

The directors of 59077 Newfoundland and Labrador Limited, Jeff and Miriam Staples, did not return messages Monday from CBC Investigates.

3 employers sanctioned by feds

In total, Employment and Social Development Canada suspended or revoked the permits to hire temporary foreign workers from three employers across the country.

The other two employers were a restaurant in Ontario and three McDonald’s locations in British Columbia.

In the wake of initial CBC Investigates stories on the Labrador City situation in January, federal officials stressed that Ottawa had already moved to beef up protections for temporary foreign workers.

Those reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which became effective as of the end of 2013, include:

  • a two-year ban for employers who are found to break the rules, with their name and address placed on a public “black list”;
  • the ability to review employer compliance for up to six years from the first day of employment of a temporary foreign worker;
  • on-site workplace visits at any time without a warrant, except in the case of private dwellings;
  • the power to revoke or suspend work permits already issued in some cases. This applies to all those issued after the end of 2013. 

NDP raises issue in House of Assembly

Newfoundland and Labrador NDP Leader Lorraine Michael raised the issue Monday, noting the allegations about 26 foreign workers in one house.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael House of Assembly April 7, 2014 CBC

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael asks about protections for temporary foreign workers during question period at the House of Assembly Monday. (CBC)

“I ask the minister, what measures has government taken to monitor the living and working conditions of temporary foreign workers in this province?” Michael asked during question period in the House of Assembly.

Advanced Education and Skills Minister Kevin O’Brien stressed that the program is a federal one, with federal oversight.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Darin King noted that temporary foreign workers have the same rights in the province as any worker who is a permanent resident.

“Any time an allegation is made through labour standards that there has been a violation or some ill treatment of any nature whatsoever, we follow up on every single one of those investigations,” King said.

There are about 3,000 temporary foreign workers currently employed in Newfoundland and Labrador.