Quebec resort branded discriminatory for paying temporary foreign workers less than Canadian employees
Mexican temporary foreign workers at Club Med Québec Charlevoix say they earn less than their Canadian counterparts and feel pressured to work overtime.
With a shortage of local labor available, the station – located in the Charlevoix region about 350 kilometers northeast of Montreal – has turned to foreign workers, mainly from Mexico, to fill positions mainly in housekeeping, catering and cooking.
According to information obtained by Radio-Canada, some Mexican employees who have worked at Club Med since its opening in 2021 do not receive the same salaries as their Canadian colleagues. Some of these Canadian colleagues have noted the disparity and say they find the pay difference deplorable.
Gwyn Boudreault, a New Brunswicker who worked at Club Med, says it doesn’t make sense that some of her Mexican colleagues are making $15.50 an hour, when her starting salary was around $20. $.
« I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t understand why, and I still don’t understand why to this day, » he said. “Of course, they are immigrants, but they also do the same work as me. Why aren’t they paid the same? »
Radio-Canada spoke with two other Canadian employees who work in housekeeping and who were also paid $20.50 an hour. As permitted by law, employees who live in employer-provided housing have approximately $52 per week deducted from their wages.
Roxanne (pseudonym, CBC/Radio-Canada has agreed to use a pseudonym to protect her identity due to her employment status) worked in housekeeping. She says she was shocked to learn that some of her Mexican colleagues were making $5 less per hour. She even asked to see one of their pay stubs as proof.
« I didn’t think it was right, » she said. « They work hard. »
Olivier Rozier, vice president of North American operations at Club Med, said the nationality of employees does not affect their salary. Rather, it is each individual’s level of education, skills, qualifications and experience that determines their compensation, he explained.
Rozier added that Club Med is currently working with the union that represents employees, the Teamsters, and an outside company to clarify issues and situations of pay discrimination.
The Teamsters have confirmed that a pay equity grievance has been filed.
Roxanne and Gwyn Boudreault said they never felt pressured to work overtime, but noticed that during certain busy or understaffed periods, some Mexican employees worked six to five days a week. .
« If you’re not happy, go back to Mexico »
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, more than 200 permits have been issued to foreign nationals to work at Club Med de Québec since 2021.
One of the main reasons Ignacio (pseudonym, CBC/Radio-Canada agreed to use a pseudonym to protect his identity due to his employment status) accepted a position at Club Med was that he was attracted by the 40-hour, five-day schedule, which was indicated in his employment contract.
But once landed on Canadian soil, the temporary worker, whose status does not allow him to work for another employer, felt pressured to work six days a week.
« [Our bosses] know we have no choice but to do what they tell us,” he said. “For a long time, we worked 48 hours a week.”
When he asked to stop working the equivalent of an extra day a week, he said a superior told him, « If you’re not happy, go back to Mexico. »
Rozier called the remarks « discriminatory » and « contrary to the values of Club Med ».
« In a situation where this happened and we were made aware of it, we would immediately sit around the table, talk about it and take action, » Rozier said.
But Ignacio said: « Club Med cares a lot about its customers to make them really happy, but at the cost of us being really miserable. »
feel the pressure
Ignacio’s schedule has reverted to 40 hours a week. He saw an improvement in his hours after signing a first collective agreement in April. But his colleague, Alberto Pacheco, a pastry sous-chef, was still feeling a lot of pressure to work overtime when Radio-Canada interviewed him in mid-September, even when he made it clear he didn’t want to work overtime. ‘overtime.
« If I say no to something [and] I have the right to do it, why do they keep insisting? » Pacheco said. « If they don’t have the staff to give the service to 800 people, don’t book 800 people. That’s it. »
But some workers like overtime, said union representative Sylvain Lacroix.
Rozier for his part clarified that « overtime is not offered according to the nationalities of the employees, and that everyone is free to do what they want ».
Workers also complain that their schedules can change with very little notice. The « lack of respect for our time » is a big source of frustration, according to Pacheco.
« You never know if they’re going to change your schedule or your days off, so I don’t feel comfortable making plans, » says Pacheco, who finds the unpredictability makes it all the more difficult to make friends and build a life for himself outside of work.
For his part, Rozier specifies that the schedules are established over a period of four weeks in accordance with the collective agreement.
« It’s tough working for Club Med, » said Roxanne, the Canadian employee. « I don’t refer anyone. »
She had a few dozen Canadian colleagues in her department, but there are only three or four left.
Rozier said that at the end of the summer, turnover was 15%, « so very acceptable for our industry ».
However, most of the resort’s foreign employees have closed permits that prevent them from working for any employer other than Club Med.
Challenging living and working conditions
Club Med employees have begun to turn to Assistance Network for Migrant Agricultural Workers of Quebec (RATTMAQ), an organization dedicated to the rights of migrant workers, to protect their working and living conditions.
The coordinator of the Quebec office of the RATTMAQ, Véronique Tessier, says that she was approached by a dozen Club Med employees for complaints concerning housing and various working conditions.
She explained that employees feel helpless and abandoned and don’t know where to turn for help.
She would like to see an end to permits that keep employees tied to one employer. She says the system gives employers an unfair advantage, but admits the whole licensing model would need to be overhauled to achieve this.
“The people we bring here are not only workers, but above all human beings,” explains Tessier.
According to Commission for standards, equity, health and safety at work (CNESST), the provincial commission on work safety, temporary foreign workers have the same labor rights and obligations as all workers in Quebec.
Source of stress and instability
« Some [workers] still live in accommodation without access to a kitchen,” Tessier said. “We are talking about permanent accommodation, not something for a few weeks.
Club Med has responded that it is not required to provide housing for its employees and maintains that each building has kitchens, individual or shared.
However, the Radio-Canada survey showed that some apartments only have access to a small refrigerator and a microwave.
Workers living in Baie-St-Paul, 25 kilometers from the station, told RATTMAQ that they did not feel safe about their housing situation and that many had been relocated several times, with little certainty. as to their place of residence.
For Tessier, this speaks to the fact that the company and the local community were not prepared for such a contingent of foreign workers.
The approximately 200 permits for foreign workers were issued under the International Mobility Program, which exempts the employer from the obligation Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) but also to provide housing for permit holders.
While Mr. Rozier declared that « healthy working conditions are at the heart of our priorities and that the vision is shared within our company, our history and our values », the five employees of Radio-Canada expressed with disappointment with their experience.
Many spoke of a deterioration in their mental health. Some even said that their work experience at Club Med Quebec Charlevoix was among the worst in their lives.
« Personally, I feel like we’re nothing to them, » Ignacio said. « We are replaceable. We are replaceable. It’s just hard. Some of us feel very lonely because of these working conditions. »
Like Ignacio, Pacheco hoped his contract with Club Med would be the gateway to a new life and a permanent residence in Canada.
« The reason I’m staying in this job is because I know it’s not the worst job, » Pacheco said. « My desire to stay in Canada is stronger. »
After his interview with Radio-Canada, Pacheco resigned from Club Med because he said he couldn’t take it anymore. Ignacio says he wants to work somewhere else.