Alberta Officials Investigate Payments to Foreign Workers

The Alberta government says it's behind an investigation into whether a cleaning company has been paying its temporary foreign workers properly.
Bee-Clean Building Maintenance has acknowledged that it owes some of its janitors overtime pay due to an administrative error and has hired an accounting firm to review its books. (WCxKit)
But Alberta Employment Standards says it ordered Bee-Clean to pay for an independent review of its payroll for all 3,000 of the company's workers following complaints this summer by some of the janitors.
Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said the accounting firm KPMG is doing the review and is to submit its final report to the government. Bee-Clean must hand over any money it owes the janitors to the province, which would pay it out.
"We will serve the company with an order demanding them to make restitution,'' Lukaszuk said Wednesday. “This order is court enforceable. The employer will be expected and compelled to comply.''
The government says it wants the report from KPMG by the end of the month.
If problems are found with Bee-Clean's books, the province would order another review, which could lead to the Edmonton-based company being charged under Employment Standards legislation, he said.
Lukaszuk said it's important for businesses and workers to understand that Alberta's employment standards apply equally to everyone in the province regardless of their nationality or where they come from.
"It doesn't matter whether you're a born Albertan or from Ontario or from another country,'' he said.
Recently, Bee-Clean issued a statement saying it owes some employees back pay for overtime.
Robert Scott, the company's regional director, said the company is working with the province to resolve the situation.
"We have apologized to all affected employees and have advised them of our intentions,'' Scott said.
"We are working to calculate the money owed based on manual time records and we have engaged KPMG to conduct an independent, third-party review of our preliminary findings and payroll practices to ensure this doesn't happen again.''
The payroll issue is part of a larger dispute between some Bee-Clean janitors who want to join the Services Employees International Union and the company, which employs the workers at the University of Alberta.
The union has launched lawsuits on behalf of the some of the janitors over unpaid wage claims and has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Alberta Labor Relations Board. The complaint alleges some of the janitors have been fired or threatened for talking about joining the union.
The SEIU represents Bee-Clean employees in Ontario and Quebec who were organized under the union's Justice for Janitors campaign.
Bee-Clean countersued on Oct. 15. The lawsuit claims union statements about unpaid overtime and threats to employees are false and malicious. Statements of claim contain allegations that have not been proven in court. (WCxKit)
Meanwhile, the union says students, faculty and staff at the University of Alberta have formed a committee to support the janitors. The committee says it is planning a campus rally to be held next month.
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. Contact: or 860-553-6604.
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