Company plans to sue City of Port Alberni following allegations surrounding migrant workers

Company plans to sue City of Port Alberni following allegations surrounding migrant workers

The company facing allegations of inhumane living conditions of its temporary foreign workers in Port Alberni is planning to sue the city.

The San Group sent its letter of intention Friday afternoon.

The San Group says its reputation has been damaged by the actions of the city, including its mayor and chief administrative officer.

The company has released surveillance videos of a surprise inspection of one of its Port Alberni properties late Thursday night by the fire department, escorted by police.

The company call it unauthorized, illegal and it’s angry it happened without one of it’s staff present.

“After they got in they went through offices, every single office looking in there, looking through the desks. Now we don’t know what was taken and we don’t know what was planted,” said Bob Bortolin, San Group’s vice president of business development.

The company has provided a fire order issued by the Port Alberni Fire Department in September 2022.

The letter orders that no structures at the property “be utilized as sleeping quarters for any person effective immediately.”

The city confirms it’s the basis for the fire department’s inspection of the mill.

This past week, allegations surfaced of more than a dozen Vietnamese men getting lower wages than they expected at the mill who were living in squalid living conditions at a separate property with no running water and a backed up sewer.

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The company says the workers are partly to blame for the disrepair at the trailers where they were living. The company says it was providing bottled water and it believes a third party may have promised more to the workers than what the San Group was offering.

B.C.’s Ministry of Labour confirms in a statement the company is registered to hire temporary foreign workers to work anywhere within B.C.

It says the agency that deals with worker complaints, the employment standards branch, “has not received any complaints against this employer, nor has an investigation, under either the Employment Standards Act or the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act, been initiated at this time.”

But the legal director of the Migrant Workers Centre in Vancouver says there’s an under-reporting of migrant worker complaints across the province.

“For those investigations they don’t even offer interpretation services, so it’s a law that’s specifically designed for people who, for the most part, do not speak English as a first language,” said Jonathon Braun, legal director of the Migrant Workers Centre.

“Despite us asking many times for it, the province refuses to provide translation or interpretation services to people filing complaints,” he said.

The San Group has indicated it plans to sue the City of Port Alberni and will speak again to its concerns this coming week.

Port Alberni’s chief administrative officer Mike Fox confirms the city has received a notice of claim from the San Group and says it’s too bad this has happened.

Fox also notes the city often sees notices of claims, but it doesn’t always mean those behind them are actually going to take legal action.


Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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