Monday, January 24, 2011

Who's MInding the Store?

Dirty drinking water, filthy limited toilet facilities, tea and bread for breakfast, rotten apples, little dinner, no vegetables.

Not bad enough?

On top of that the workers are then charged $25 for their meals and accomodation - taken, of course, directly from their measly paycheques.

Ah well.

What concern is this of ours?

This must be some gulag or other in Mongolia, the Punjab, darkest Africa.

Wrong again, Bunky.

This is a reforestation camp in Golden, B.C. and a few other local sites.

Many of the workers are from Africa. Most have no idea about their "rights." Most have been lied to about opportunities.

The company in this case is Khaira Enterprises, its owners are Khaid Mahmood Bajwa and Hardilpreet Singh Sidhu.

But they are far from alone in their evils. Their kind are thriving in B.C.

And now, thanks to the work of the BC Federation of Labour in exposing these crimes, the owners must pay $229,000 in back wages to 57 workers - not very much per person for this level of mistreatment and disrespect.

Adding insult to injury, Sishu and Bajwa, the owners, have been fined $3,500 for seven violations of the Employment Standards Act.

Seven violations. $3,500.

BC Fed President, Jim Sinclair, has rightly declared this finding "a joke."

It's worse than a joke.

It's a nightmare.

It speaks to a government that will not spend the money to employ enough inspectors to enforce the rules of the land.

Think back to the women killed and injured riding that panel van in the valley a few years ago. Sitting on apple crates. No seat belts.

What has changed?

When I was a child, 60 years ago in Winnipeg, my mother worked as a bookkeeper for clothing companies and candy makers who had better working conditions than this. Let me repeat - 60 years ago.

It's all smiles and handshakes now that the egos are running for the leadership of their parties. But ask them at the next rally where they were when these workers were trying to work for six hours without a break on food rations that you might find in prisoner of war camps. Ask them what kind of province we are living in, what kind of province we would like to live in.