Weyburn restaurant investigated over foreign worker program

WEYBURN – A restaurant in Weyburn is being investigated by the federal government for alleged abuses of the temporary foreign worker program.

Two long-time serving waitresses say they were fired and replaced by government-approved temporary help from outside of Canada.

“Never thought that I would lose my job,” said Sandy Nelson, who worked for the company for 28 years. “They told me that I was like family. We had a lot of history together.”

At the end of March, employees at Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza received letters saying they were being dismissed.

“I was upset. In fact, after 14 years they just handed me a letter saying I was fired,” said Shaunna Jennison-Yung.

So, it was shocking then to learn some employees were hired back, including temporary foreign workers, said both Nelson and Jennison-Yung.

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“What he had hoped was that I (would) go on EI and maybe a few weeks down the road he would have two, maybe three shifts a week for me,” said Sandy. “I can’t afford to live on EI.”

The restaurant owners maintain they were following the rules.

“There are two sides to every story,” said George Siourounis, owner and manager of Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza (and the Weyburn Travelodge Hotel). “Due to employee privacy issues we cannot comment any further at this moment.”

The federal government confirms employment and social development is investigating the case. In a statement, minister Jason Kenney’s office says the government’s message is clear: Canadians must always be first in line for available jobs.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale is asking for a full audit of the program.

“This is a program that had an original purpose that has long since been departed from,” said Goodale. “It’s not just one or two isolated incidences where things have run amok. There’s a pattern of abuse here.”

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour has been critical of the program for years.

“While we certainly have pockets of need, there are also segments of our community and our society that aren’t fully engaged in the workforce,” said Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.

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Hubich said other programs, such as the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program, are more effective.

More than 300,000 people are in Canada under the temporary foreign worker program.

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