Weyburn restaurant defends staffing moves and use of foreign temps

The owners of the Weyburn, Sask., restaurant at the centre of controversy over its use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, say recent staffing changes were related to a "restructuring" of their hours of operation and no waitresses lost their jobs to workers from abroad.

Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza says all workers offered new hours

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The owners of Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza, a Weyburn, Sask., restaurant at the centre of controversy over its use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, say recent staffing changes were related to the "restructuring" of their hours of operation.

In a statement released Wednesday, the owners — who describe themselves as a family-owned business — said they informed their staff of the changes earlier this year and some employees accepted the changes to their schedules while others did not.

Last week two former longtime waitresses — Sandy Nelson and Shaunna Jennison-Yung — told the CBC News iTeam that they believed they had lost their jobs to workers hired under the TFW program. The pair were given termination letters in early March from the restaurant owners.

Owners of Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza in Weyburn issued a statement Wedneday. (CBC)

But the company insists it has not recently hired any new workers from abroad, but said it does have employees under the TFW program who, according to the statement, chose to stay with the business and work with the new hours.

The two women were discharged by the restaurant in March, according to a letter provided to CBC News by the women. According to the restaurant's statement today, Nelson and Jennison-Yung were given a chance to continue working there. 

"All employees were offered employment within the framework of our new restaurant hours," the statement said. "The two employees who are choosing to take their case to the media were both offered jobs under the restructured operation. It was entirely their choice to reject our offer of employment and the new structure of their hours of work."

Waitresses recall different experience

In an interview Wednesday, however, one of the waitresses — Jennison-Yung — insisted no offers, of any sort, were made after she was dismissed.

"As God is my witness I was never offered a job," she said. "Nothing was said about reduced hours. Nothing. Absolutely nothing."

CBC News contacted Sandy Nelson Wednesday evening and she recalled that after she was laid off she asked one of the owners if she would be hired back.

"And Harry stated emphatically that no I would not," she said. "But he wanted me to start claiming EI [Employment Insurance benefits] and then he would maybe see if he could get me two or three shifts a week."

Nelson, who had been working full-time at the restaurant for the previous 28 years, said she couldn't survive on that.

The owners of the restaurant — three brothers — have declined requests for interviews from CBC News.

Their statement added that they are, themselves, immigrants to Canada.

"We each immigrated to Canada as young men and have a great respect for our employees who have immigrated to Saskatchewan in search of better jobs and better lives," the statement said. "They are honest hard-working people and we appreciate their dedication to our business through this difficult transition."

With files from CBC's Geoff Leo