Foreign workers fracas reaches Parksville

A Parksville woman thrust into the centre of the controversy surrounding the alleged mis-use of the temporary foreign workers program at Island McDonald's Restaurant locations says she spoke up to protect her friend.

Christina Morrow worked at the Parksville McDonald's for about 24 years. She left the employ of McDonald's in late 2012 after she said she was demoted, had her hours reduced and her pay cut to $11/hour from $18/hour.

She has appeared on at least two television network newscasts talking about how she believes local people were passed over for jobs in favour of temporary foreign workers from the Philippines. She has a different job now and was asked why she came forward with these concerns about her former employer.

"I still have friends that work there," said Morrow. "I don't want to see them get phased out."

The website of the federal government's Temporary Foreign Workers Program lists employers "who have broken the rules or been suspended (from the program)." While three McDonald's locations in Victoria are on the list, the Parksville restaurant is not (as of Wednesday).

Morrow said as assistant manager, she did see resumes of local applicants but she said the owner "preferred to keep it to the foreign workers. For sure, there was interest (from local applicants), it just wasn't acted on."

Morrow also said her comments are not directed at the Filipino employees at the Parksville restaurant. "I have nothing against them — they are super workers," said Morrow. "But it's not fair to the community."

Paolo Loberiza is the president of the Mid-Island Filipino Canadian Society, which has 120 adult members who have at least that many children.

“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about from our point,” said Loberiza. “Most of our members are just here to work and that’s what they do.”

The NEWS sought comment from the local owner of the McDonald’s Restaurant but received this in response from McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited:

“McDonald’s Canada has been made aware of serious allegations concerning the employment of temporary foreign workers at two independent franchisee operations located in British Columbia and another in Alberta,” read the statement. “At McDonald’s Canada, we do not tolerate infractions of any kind – intended or unintended – against any employee . . . We take these allegations very seriously and immediately launched our own investigations . . . Temporary foreign workers represent a very small proportion — only four per cent — of our national workforce.  We value the contributions of each and every one of our employees equally.”

“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program was created to help employers resolve staffing issues and it provides important support for businesses when used as intended,” the statement continued. “We will work closely with Service Canada on the audit of franchisees, and will ensure all recommendations are met. McDonald’s has a long-standing track record of compliance with Service Canada requirements.”

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