‘Nobody speaks, because everyone needs the job’: Aldergrove Subway workers’ shocking allegations

Click to play video: 'Concerning allegations from employees of two Subway locations in Aldergrove' Concerning allegations from employees of two Subway locations in Aldergrove
Concerning allegations are emerging from employees of two Subway locations in Aldergrove where whistleblowers say they have been refused overtime and stat holiday pay and told to tamper with best before dates to keep food costs down. Neetu Garcha reports – Jul 27, 2018

Some concerning allegations from employees of two Subway restaurants in Aldergrove have prompted calls for immediate investigations.

Global News has spoken to six current and former employees and has agreed to conceal their identities. Two of them say they were so fed up, they quit.

Complaints of not being paid properly for overtime and statutory holidays worked and of bullying by the boss are on a long list of allegations.

“You dumb, you brainless, you this, you that… she uses abusive language in front of everyone,” a former employee told Global News of the types of comments made by her boss.

There are also accusations of mishandled food. The employees say they’re told to tamper with best before dates to bring food costs down, including expired chicken.

They also allege they’re ordered to hide expired food products in their personal vehicles while restaurant inspections are being conducted.

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“I feel stressed and depressed like I go to my doctor and sometimes I cry,” a former employee said.

READ MORE: Teen, let go from Subway, says coworkers made fun of his special needs

Current and former staff showed Global News pay stubs, each for two-week time periods, which show overtime and statutory holidays worked were paid at the minimum wage rate instead of time-and-a-half.

“She keeps saying… I don’t have to keep you, I can fire you any day,” the former employee said of the boss’s alleged threats to terminate employees.

“But nobody speaks, because everybody needs the job.”

One woman who did speak up says she was later fired without reason, raising questions about whether there was discrimination against Indo-Canadians, some of whom recently arrived to Canada and may not know their rights.

“White people she’s paying everything like stat pay, holidays, overtime, everything,” a current employee alleges.

READ MORE: Subway Canada to refresh its look with new design, menu items

The owner in question, Baljit Sidhu, originally agreed to meet with Global News to talk about the allegations, saying she recently terminated an employee with two weeks’ pay and doesn’t feel she’s done anything wrong.

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Sidhu later cancelled the scheduled meeting, without reason, referring us to Subway Corporate.

In a statement, Subway Canada said it’s concerned by the allegations and is investigating them.

“While we found no food safety violations, food quality is Subway’s top priority, which is why we have strict food safety standards that all franchisees must uphold,” Subway Canada development agent Margot Micallef said.

She also said Subway requires all its franchisees to abide by all laws, including labour laws, adding “if there are concerns over labour violations, we encourage individuals to call the proper authorities. Should they find any laws were violated, we will take appropriate action.”

The BC Federation of Labour called the allegations worrying, but not shocking, adding it will be calling on the province’s Employment Standards Branch to immediately investigate this case.

“This stuff, unfortunately, happens all the time and isn’t often paid attention to and because these are folks who really don’t have a voice,” BC Federation of Labour secretary treasurer Aaron Ekman said.

“It is something that’s all too common in British Columbia where you have highly exploitative industries which are employing workers who have fewer rights and an inability to stand up to their employers so we’ll be watching this one very closely,” he added.

Ekman said there are similar cases around the province and he suspects there are quite a few more cases than we ever hear about.

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“A lot of these folks they’re new to Canada, they don’t necessarily know what their rights are… it’s very easy for them to be abused and there really isn’t much of a recourse,” Ekman said.

“Over the last 16 years… the previous B.C. Liberal government really gutted the Employment Standards Branches and the Employment Standards Act making it virtually impossible for them, under the new regime, to be able to get any recourse or get what’s owed to them from their employer,” he added.

Labour Minister Harry Bains said, in a statement, he is very concerned by the allegations.

“I have devoted the better half of my adult life and career to ensure that employment standards are being evenly and effectively enforced; that work has begun to ensure workers have better access to information on what their rights are,” Bains said.

READ MORE: Chemical in Subway bread also in Canada, but will be removed — company

Bains said there’s a need for better enforcement measures like workplace audits, investigations and penalties.

He said the advice to any non-unionized worker is to go to the Employment Standards Branch website or to call at 1-800-663-3316, or go to one of their head office locations and file a formal complaint.

WorkSafeBC also offers a toll free line (1-888-621-7233) to call and report incidents of bullying and harassment.

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WorkSafeBC told Global News it can’t speak to specific incidents, adding new immigrants in the workplace are considered workers under the Workers Compensation Act.

​Fraser Health said it has not received any complaints regarding the two restaurants in Aldergrove but will be following up with the operators now that it’s aware of the allegations.

​The employment standards branch said it does not have any open complaints about any Subway restaurants in the Aldergrove area.

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