Mexicans paid four times less than Quebecers at BRP
Mexican employees would not receive the same salary as their Quebec colleagues at the BRP plant in Valcourt. (File photo)
The same work for four times less pay: the multinational BRP does not offer the same salary treatment to its Mexican workers as to its Quebec employees at its plant in Valcourt, in the Eastern Townships. Pay stubs obtained by Radio-Canada show that the salary of foreign workers is below the legal minimum in force in Quebec and is paid in Mexican pesos. The company responds that since Mexicans are housed and fed, their remuneration is cut by 60%, out of concern for fairness to their Quebec colleagues.
To counter the shortage workforce, BRP has called on more than 160 employees from its plants in Querétaro and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in recent months to come and lend a hand in the #x27;Valcourt factory.
If they performed the same tasks as their Quebec colleagues, their salary was very different.
For a 40-hour week, a Mexican worker's basic gross salary was about $225, while a BRP employee earned $920. This weekly rate was calculated from the testimonies of five Mexican workers contacted individually by Radio-Canada.
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Three of these five workers provided us with pay stubs that allowed us to estimate hourly wages ranging from $5.50 to $7.25 . This corresponds to a salary well below the legal minimum wage in Quebec, which is $14.25 per hour. As for the starting wage at BRP for Quebec workers, it is more like $23 per hour.
We have chosen to withhold the names of Mexican workers to avoid reprisals in Mexico. According to their testimonies, their coming to Quebec still made it possible to greatly improve their salary conditions compared to those in their country of origin, with a 40% increase in their income.
This type of situation is increasingly well known among Quebec BRP employees. Some agreed to confide in Radio-Canada on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. They feel that their employer treats Mexicans as “cheap labor“.
It's really unfair, exclaims a former BRP employee, who contacted Radio-Canada to denounce the situation. A recent wave of layoffs of workers at BRP has also fueled questions from employees. Some wonder if their employer would not try to replace them with foreign workers, who are less well paid. It is sure that things are starting to talk a little bit, testifies one of the employees, still employed by BRP.
“You lay off people because it costs too much, there are too many employees, but we still bring in foreign workers. It's a little weird.
BRP believes this to be an unfounded fear and maintains that there have been no recent layoffs. There is not a Mexican colleague who has come to take someone's job, I reassure you, this is absolutely not the case, affirms the director of human resources, Carl Beauparlant. Employees who were fired would rather have been fired because they did not meet company expectations.
The factory in Querétaro, Mexico
The unequal wage treatment also caused concerns outside the factory. The Sherbrooke organization Actions interculturelles, which was informed by other Mexican nationals and a worker, tried to get the employees to denounce the situation, but without much success.
According to one of the organization's project managers, Jasmin Chabot, the information he had indicated that it could be a form of exploitation on the part of BRP. He found that Mexican employees fear reprisals, especially since their salary situation is still much better in Quebec than in Mexico. He wonders if there is not also a form of discrimination.
According to Germain Royer, coordinator of education-cooperation at the Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse, an employer who offers differential salary treatment based on ethnic origin exposes himself to complaints of discrimination. They have the same rights as other workers. They cannot be paid differently because of their status, because of their national ethnic origin, or because of their language, he argues.
All Mexican workers interviewed by Radio-Canada claim to have received a bonus corresponding to 40% of their Mexican salary to work in Quebec. We were able to confirm this information by consulting an employment contract and pay stubs. Despite everything, their salary remains four times lower than their Quebec colleagues and represents less than the minimum wage.
The lawyers consulted by Radio-Canada are categorical: we cannot offer the salary in force in Mexico for work done in Quebec. There is no privilege, no one can legally work below the standards set by the Quebec government, underlines Me Krishna Gagné, without commenting specifically on the case of BRP.
“Having inter-company moves does not give a license to be able to hire "cheap labor".”
—Krishna Gagne , lawyer specializing in immigration law
Quebec workers also suspect BRP of wanting to encourage the hiring of foreign workers to reduce labor costs- of work. (File photo)
Asked to comment, BRP initially denied the allegations outright. It is categorically false what you tell me, first answered a representative of the company on the phone.
After being informed of the evidence held by Radio-Canada, the company finally provided additional details, and agreed to open the doors of its factory to us to answer all our questions.
We are deeply convinced that we have complied with the applicable laws, mentioned on several occasions the human resources director of the Valcourt plant, Carl Beauparlant.
He explains that if the salary received by Mexicans is different, it is because of their full support by the company during their stay. Thus, the part cut off from the salary of Mexican employees – about 60% – would be used to cover the costs of accommodation, transportation, meals, entertainment, clothing and insurance. What you see on the pay stub is the residual, he says.
He claims that the company takes such an amount out of fairness. We have to make sure that there is equivalent remuneration [to Mexican workers] , affirms Carl Beauparlant.
“We also need to respect our Canadian employees with fairness. The Canadian employee personally assumes his accommodation, his transport, and then all that. »
— Carl Beauparlant, Director of Human Resources, BRP plant in Valcourt
The human resources manager ensures that without these deductions, the salary received by the Mexicans would have been the same as that of their colleagues.
Carl Beauparlant is the director of human resources at the BRP plant in Valcourt.
If we rely on information from BRP, this 60% withdrawn would correspond to approximately $550 per week, or just over $2,000 per month. The employer claims to have respected the maximum amounts provided for by law to cover the costs of accommodation and meals.
However, according to the Commission for Standards, Equity , de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), no employer can charge more than approximately $60 per week to cover these costs.
This means that approximately $490 per week was used to cover other expenses. I understand the aspect of housing, but for deductions, it is clear in the law on standards that we have the right, with the consent of the employee, to make these deductions , explains Carl Beauparlant.
Section 6 of the Labor Standards Regulation provides that an employer may not charge more than:
- $2.37 per meal , up to $30.91 per week
- $29.72 per week for a room
Radio-Canada was unable to confirm the exact amount of these deductions, since the amounts deducted for the care of workers, including accommodation costs, do not appear on any of the six pay stubs provided to us by Mexican workers. They also claim that they believed that these expenses were the responsibility of their employer, and not assumed by them.
The CNESST informs us by email that an employer is nevertheless obliged to indicate the nature and amount of the deductions collected on the pay stubs. According to the federal Minister of Immigration, Sean Fraser, one cannot cut a salary to cover this type of expense. The benefits that some employers may offer, such as providing accommodation, cannot be part of the salary calculation, mentions by email his press officer, Bahoz Dara Aziz.
Carl Beauparlant ensures that the information was well detailed in a document given to employees at the time of their hiring. Mexican workers also continued to receive their pay in pesos in Mexico to simplify management, he said. Since their pay continued to be made in their home country, the stub would have been produced there.
“We cannot not, for technical reasons, put the deductions on the Mexican pay stub. »
— Carl Beauparlant, Director of Human Resources, BRP plant in Valcourt
We made presentations in Mexico in their language, adds Carl Beauparlant. People consented. We demonstrated what we were going to take, then why. BRP, however, refused to provide us with a contract with this detailed information.
One of the Mexican workers, however, sent us a temporary assignment contract which does not present any deductions. In it, it is mentioned in particular that you will be covered for the total cost of your stay in a hotel designated by BRP (Camping Havana Resort) and that meals consumed at the BRP plant in Valcourt will be covered in full. However, it is impossible to know whether other contracts specifying payroll deductions have been signed by the worker.
Nevertheless, labor lawyer Sophie Mongeon believes that it is quite unusual for an employer to levy such a high amount. It leaves me very, very perplexed, she says. I don't see where you can charge them that much money.
“$2000 per month per worker is huge. I can't believe it. It is shameful. »
— Sophie Mongeon, lawyer specializing in labor law
She even goes so far as to wonder if this isn't a roundabout way of trying to thwart the law. The only argument they can conjure up is entertainment, clothing, and insurance. And again, entertainment, I don't see how you can [require] $2,000 per worker. In terms of clothes, if they are clothes for work, they are provided by the employer in principle. In terms of insurance, but insurance of what?, she adds.
Without commenting specifically on the BRP case, immigration lawyer Krishna Gagné says a deduction of more than $550 per week is much higher than normal for temporary foreign workers. We can expect to have costs which can be in the range of perhaps $300 to $400 maximum per month, if the worker is housed and fed , she underlines.
An employer may deduct an amount from an employee's pay only to fulfill an obligation established by law, regulation, court order, collective agreement, decree or a supplementary pension plan.
“The employer may also make a deduction from wages, if the employee consents thereto in writing and for a specific purpose mentioned in this writing”, specifies article 49 of the Standards Act work. An authorization that can be revoked at any time by the employee.
Source : CNESST
Carl Beauparlant does not believe that the inferences are exaggerated. I remain comfortable with the deductions, then we made sure to do it according to the law, he underlines. He also believes that this experience has been more than positive for the workers and the company.
Radio-Canada has learned that a CNESST investigation has been opened on this subject. BRP promises to collaborate on this. To this day, the company still has just over 25 Mexican workers at its plant. Specialized workers, according to BRP.
Mexicans paid $4 an hour at a campground in the Eastern Townships