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Sarah R. Champagne

Published at 12:30 p.m. Updated at 2:15 p.m.

  • Quebec

“Shameful”, “troubling revelations”, “an affront”: the opposition parties in Quebec and the largest health union are outraged by the fate reserved by the Groupe AMS placement agency for new arrivals.

Le Devoirrevealed Monday that immigrants without work permits were paid $10 an hour to clean CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal establishments. The placement agency Groupe AMS has supplied workers to at least four CIUSSS in Quebec. The owner on paper, Marc Turcotte, admitted to paying less than the legal minimum, calling these employees “volunteers” while waiting to receive their work permit.

The The boss designated by the employees is rather his wife, Solange Crevier, a serial fraudster known in particular for having been hired for two years at Desjardins under the usurped identity of a close relative. She is currently serving an 18-month sentence behind bars, a sentence she tried to appeal, arguing that she had to “ensure the activities of the business of which [her spouse] is the owner”, i.e. i.e. AMS Group.

To (re)read

  • Investigation | Employees under “volunteer contract” paid $10 an hour cleaned Montreal hospitals
  • Investigation | Who is Solange Crevier ?

“We will not tolerate underpaid people in hospitals, we denounce these practices, it is intolerable”, thunders Monday morning Réjean Leclerc, president of the Federation of Health and Social Services ( FSSS-CSN). It is for him a “double fault” to attack newcomers, who do not always know their rights and who are all the more difficult to defend.

He vehemently denounces the advent of private healthcare. The issue of health agencies “worries us greatly,” he said, since they “cost more,” in addition to not being accountable. “We do business with private providers and they find ways to avoid the law, all forms of contracts and collective agreements,” he complains.

The CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal refused our requests for an interview and has not indicated how it intends to remedy this situation. “Why does the CIUSSS almost wash its hands of it?” asks Mr. Leclerc.

This public body gives the impression that the agency is the only employer in his responses to the Devoir,he observes. However, the Labor Standards Act indicates that the client, the CIUSSS in this case, is just as responsible for unpaid salaries as the agency with which it contracted. “That we find ourselves at this level is an affront to past generations who fought for our rights. We fight for that and we flout them as if nothing had happened,” fumes the union president.

Almost a third of the agencies inspected non-compliant

“It is shameful to see that this company does not respect the laws of Quebec and exploits workers, in particular immigrants,” reacted the door -spokesperson for the official opposition on health, André Fortin. The Liberal MP called on the government to “withdraw all its contractual ties” with the agency and called on the ministry to act quickly “to ensure that such situations do not happen again and help immigrant workers obtain status in the Quebec”.

“It is unacceptable that a company exploits people's distress to make profits and especially since the Quebec state benefits from it,” declared the responsible person in charge of immigration, Guillaume Cliche-Rivard. . He also called on the CAQ to put in place “rapid solutions to allow these people to work legally”, in particular proposing a rapid work authorization.

« Comment can a public institution, a CIUSSS, do business with such bandits ? We must shed light on the situation and ensure that these people have not been active elsewhere,” his colleague also reacted Vincent Marissal, responsible for solidarity in health matters.

At the Government Acquisitions Center (CAG), the AMS Group agency is in fact still among the list of “awardees” for two contracts, that is to say among the list of companies pre-approved to offer services in health establishments. The CAG refused to comment on a particular case, referring to the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST) for any investigation process. The CAG could not indicate whether it would be notified of such an investigation.

The CNESST could not confirm whether an investigation was underway for this company “for privacy reasons.” Since 2020, placement agencies must hold a license. The Groupe AMS agency holds such a permit, but not the Groupe SSAD, housed in the same offices and at the same telephone number.

More than 2,500 employment agencies have appeared on the register since 2020, in all areas and not just health; the CNESST revoked 3 permits and suspended 95 others.

Almost a third of the employment agencies that the CNESST inspected last year were not compliant, either regarding their obligations as an agency or in relation to labor standards. “More critical” items of non-compliance, even “serious violations such as failing to meet the minimum wage,” affected “less than 10 percent” of agency and corporate clients. Only 21 inspections were carried out at client companies (which are like the CIUSSS in the case of our investigation) in 2023.

The Minister of Labor, Jean Boulet, n had not responded to our interview requests at the time of writing these lines.

“Disturbing revelations this morning, which join others of the same type in recent weeks on the working conditions of immigrants,” said Pascal Paradis, spokesperson for the Parti Québécois (PQ). in matters of work and employment. “Government entities cannot be tolerated engaging in such a practice, which raises serious questions about its legality and ethicality,” he added. The PQ criticizes the Coalition Avenir Québec for having “lost control of the working conditions of immigrants,” says Mr. Paradis.

The hierarchy knew

At least one person with supervisory duties had been informed that an agency employee was paid below the minimum wage, Jean-François Dubé, the president of the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'Île workers' union, was able to confirm. -de-Montreal-CSN. This person “notified the head of department, who notified above to correct the situation,” he said.

This type of situation is not unique, but Mr. Dubé notes that “some other cases simply don’t make it to management.” At least 36 maintenance workers who worked for agencies were hired directly by the CIUSSS in recent weeks, he assures.

One of the employees who confided in Devoirwas in fact approached by the CIUSSS. “I said I was waiting for my work permit,” explains Jean Pierre, using an assumed first name for fear of reprisals. The talent acquisition center of expertise instead put him in contact with a person responsible for international recruitment. “But she called me back to tell me that they will only recruit elsewhere, we will look for them internationally. We spend millions while I am already here,” laments this man.

A public relations officer from the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal indicated that the public body stopped using the services of the Groupe AMS agency after an exhaustive check of the validity of the work permits.

The $10 per hour that employees received by bank transfer are below the minimum wage, but also less than half the hourly rate in effect for tasks of this nature in the Montreal region. There is in fact a decree for public building maintenance personnel which now sets the salary for cleaning such as sweeping and light maintenance of toilets at $20.30 per hour.

“We are aware that this is a problem in the industry, more or less compliant agencies and the use of these to exploit workers,” explains Caroline Dalpé about the general context. She is general director of the Joint Committee for the Maintenance of Public Buildings in the Montreal region, responsible for enforcing the decree in question. Undeclared work and the exploitation of people without work permits are concerns, she says, “and even more than that, it is one of our priorities.”

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