pei-si-mariner-seafood

Temporary foreign workers testify at the Employment Standards Board about treatment by their employer, Mariner Seafoods. ((CBC))

The owner of Mariner Seafoods, a struggling seafood plant in Montague, has been ordered to pay more than $150,000 to a group of workers from Thailand.

This is the first case of its kind on Prince Edward Island, where temporary foreign workers have complained to the provincial Employment Standards Board about their treatment.

Owner Mark Bonnell Bonnell has 10 days to pay. After that, the case will go to judgment and his assets can be seized.

But, Mariner Seafoods, which owes creditors about $11.5 million, recently went through receivership and bankruptcy.

Bonnell appeared before the provincial Employment Standards Board in April and denied any wrong doing when it came to the treatment of 45 workers from Thailand in the years 2009 and 2010.

The workers alleged that in 2009 Bonnell deducted $1,500 from their pay that was never returned. They also charged that in 2010 Bonnell withheld 10 hours of pay each week.

Finally, they charged that 11 of the workers who complained were fired and kicked out of their housing supplied by Mariner.

Bonnell testified the deducted money was for airfare and for English lessons. He said he also set up savings accounts and that the workers got some of their money back.

But in its ruling, the board said that some of Bonnell's claims were contradictory.

"Mr. Bonnell's evidence and submissions were, at times inconsistent, and raised questions. The burden of proof is on the employer," the board wrote in its decision.

The board also called firing the workers for complaining "unjust and discriminatory."

Bonnell he had no comment Monday about the ruling. None of the workers could be reached. Only six of the 45 still live on Prince Edward Island.

Officials said they're trying to improve the system for foreign workers.

"We are working on that for the future so that we're able to understand where this workforce is and to make sure their rights are respected."