They’re characterized by police across Canada as a dangerous criminal organization.
Until last year, Hells Angels from the Saskatoon chapter worked at the Agrium potash mine near Vanscoy and at the Potash Corp. mine at Cory.
They lost those high-paying jobs when Leonard Banga at Xtreme Mining and Demolition decided he didn’t want Hells Angels in his company. This decision has triggered alleged death threats and a potential lawsuit.
An eye on the Hells Angels
Mining companies across the province are closely watching the story unfold.
“I think it did make people reflect on their hiring policies and their harassment policies in the workforce, and making sure that contractors were accountable for the actions of their employees,” said Pamela Schwann, executive director of the Saskatchewan Mining Association.
Three Hells Angels from the motorcycle club’s Saskatoon chapter are threatening to sue Banga for defamation and wrongful dismissal. They lost their jobs at the company when they revealed on a company questionnaire that they are members of what Banga calls a criminal organization.
'All three were model employees.' - Lawyer for Hells Angels
In the letter sent by the Angels’ Vancouver lawyer, the three employees describe themselves as “model employees.”
Potash Corporation declined requests for an interview.
Banga is standing by his decision.
“If you’re applying for a job and you’re a member of a group or a club that’s considered to be an organized crime group, if you’re part of that and you can’t find work – well, guess what? Maybe change your life,” he said in an interview.
Banga said he introduced the questionnaire because of complaints from other workers of threats and intimidation from the Hells Angels.
'Maybe change your life.' - Leonard Banga
Pamela Schwann said that member companies are all aware of what happened with Banga and are quietly reviewing their hiring policies. She said there is no universal standard for hiring, although most companies perform a criminal record check and do drug and alcohol screening.
They’re also checking on to what degree they can control workers from other companies on their sites.
Agrium, for instance, is in the midst of a massive expansion at its potash mine near Vanscoy. Agrium has about 670 employees, but another 1,500 are on the property on any given day working on the expansion.
“I think it was one that raised concern among very many people in the industry. The mining industry strives to make sure that their workforce and work environment is safe and harassment free,” Schwann said.
Gavin Rans is the human resources manager at Agrium.
He said that the company doesn’t think asking about involvement in a criminal organization on a questionnaire is practical.
Agrium will not hire Hells Angels
“The difficulty in doing that of course becomes where do you draw the line? Because the Hells Angels are one organization ... I think it's a more complex issue than vetting out potential Hells Angels. In order to conduct that screening, I don't think you'd want to limit yourself to Hells Angels,” he said.
But he added that Banga’s experience prompted the company to look at its recruitment processes.
“I don't care what industry what you work in, whether it's retail, manufacturing or whether you're a small business, I don't think any business owner or company would prefer to have employees in its midst that are members of a criminal organization,” he said.
“We would not knowingly hire someone who is a member of the Hells Angels.”