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Plastech must pay $32,000 to Mexican worker

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The Plastech company in Sherbrooke did not respect labor standards in the case of a Mexican worker.

  • Thomas Deshaies (View profile)Thomas Deshaies

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$32,000: this is the amount that Plastech, from the Mi Integration group, must pay , to a Mexican worker who had filed a complaint with the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST) because this company did not respect labor standards, according to an investigation carried out by the organization.

Remember that the Mexican workers met by Radio-Canada last December deplored having been cheated by Plastech, a company specializing in the manufacturing of automobile parts.

Among other things, they alleged that they had never received the promised work permit but had nevertheless worked for more than a year at the Sherbrooke factory. They also deplored the fact that their overtime work was paid $6 per hour.

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The CNESST orders Plastech to pay approximately $32,000 to a Mexican worker.

The CNESST filed a first complaint for an employee who had filed a complaint in this matter. She would not have received several amounts to which she would have been entitled: $28,574 in salary, $933.90 for public holidays and $2,393.12 in vacation pay. Since Plastech did not pay the amounts claimed, the CNESST filed a lawsuit on January 22, 2024.

For the first time, the company agreed to grant an interview to Radio-Canada. The director of human resources, Marie-Claude Houle, who says she was personally involved in recruiting Mexican workers, claims to have acted in accordance with the recommendations of an immigration consultant. We are confident that we did the best we could based on the indications we received at that time, she explains.

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We put the file in the hands of our lawyers. There are different points of view on this situation which will need to be clarified.

A quote from Maire-Claude Houle, director of human resources, Plastech

Marie-Claude Houle maintains that the workers had no work permit because they would never have worked at the factory. Instead, they underwent 12 months of training. It is training which is based on companionship. It’s the training that’s practical. This training, she assures, would be of the same duration for Mexicans as for Quebecers. She denies having promised a work permit to this worker.

Plastech therefore judges that since the Mexicans had visitor status in the context of a business trip, they were exempt from obtaining a work permit. They could also be paid according to the standards in force in Mexico, that is to say approximately $235 per week, according to the pay stubs consulted by Radio-Canada. [It was] added to a distance bonus which means that they received the equivalent of $19 per hour, specifies Ms. Houle.

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The director of human resources at Plastech, Marie-Claude Houle, admits “that with experience, we would certainly do things a little differently today”.

Consulted by Radio-Canada, lawyer specializing in immigration law Krishna Gagné affirms that there are indeed exemptions for commercial visitors for a maximum period of six months. This allows, for example, a person without a work permit to come and provide after-sales service or to follow training to bring back the expertise acquired in their country. However, the visitor must never enter the Canadian labor market, that is to say, he must not perform the same tasks as a Quebec colleague.

Mr. Gagné does not believe this exemption is applicable to the case of Plastech, according to his analysis of the comments we reported to him. This seems to be a blatant case of trying to do indirectly what you cannot do directly. An exemption for 12 months of training seems highly unusual to him. I don't see that at all in my career.

12 month training is not the type of training that was considered when creating this exemption.

A quote from Krishna Gagné, lawyer specializing in immigration law

Michel Pilon, from the Assistance Network for Migrant Agricultural Workers of Quebec (RATTMAQ), has the mandate to represent the worker in this matter. It is clear: These workers, for 12 months, did work like Quebec workers in the same factory. They did production like all the other workers, he maintains.

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Michel Pilon, general director of the Tourism Network assistance to migrant agricultural workers in Quebec (RATTMAQ).

Professor specializing in labor law at the University of Sherbrooke, Finn Makela judges that the filing of a complaint by the CNESST demonstrates that this organization considers that the worker did not benefit from an exemption and that the Labor Standards Act applied to her.

The CNESST declined our request for an interview and it was not possible for us to have access to the precise calculations, including hours, that support the $32,000 claim. By email, she specifies that before sending a complaint, the CNESST carries out an investigation to establish whether the employer complies with labor standards in financial matters.

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Professor of law at the University of Sherbrooke, Finn Makela is interested in legal issues affecting the world of work.

This claim, considered significant at first glance for 12 months of work by Professor Finn Makela, could indicate that the CNESST did not consider the payment of the remoteness bonus as salary. In labor law, it is clear that remuneration is the consideration for the work performed. Compensation which aims to reimburse expenses incurred by employees is not salary, he explains.

Plastech says it now wants to do things differently.

The director of human resources at Plastech, Marie- Claude Houle ensures that there are no more workers without permits in his factory. With experience, we would certainly do things a little differently today, she adds.

Furthermore, this company recently received government authorization to hire three temporary foreign workers with work permits.

There is certainly some communication that was missing in this project.

A quote from Marie-Claude Houle , director of human resources, Plastech

The company, however, intends to defend itself in court. His lawyer has informed the opposing party that there will be a dispute. Our lawyers will discuss with those of the CNESST to shed light on the different points of view, specifies Ms. Houle, without giving more details.

However, she assures that she has always had great concern for the well-being of employees and that it was a very enriching cultural and professional experience.

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Other complaints have been filed with the CNESST for similar situations.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">At RATTMAQ, we judge that the experience was not as enriching for the workers that this organization represents. This type of situation where a company brings people from Mexico and pays them below the minimum wage must stop. It's called undeclared work, criticizes Michel Pilon.

He believes that the authorities must crack down. If there is no control, it will become nonsense. All companies will want to bring in these workers, without paying taxes, believes Mr. Pilon.

According to our information, other employees have filed complaints with the CNESST in recent weeks.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116