Manitoba pork plant suing Toronto recruiter, alleging migrant workers lured away

A Manitoba pork processing company is suing a Toronto recruiter and former employee for allegedly misleading foreign workers.

Alleges recruiter, former staffer, encouraged workers to breach contracts, take new jobs

HyLife Foods is suing a recruiter and a former staffer who worked at its Neepawa plant, seen above. (CBC)

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 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 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 is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. Since joining CBC in 2016, he's covered several major stories. Some of his career highlights have been documenting the plight of asylum seekers leaving America in the dead of winter for Canada and the 2019 manhunt for two teenage murder suspects. In 2021, he won an RTDNA Canada award for his investigative reporting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which triggered change. Have a story idea? Email: