AYR Motor Express sues Ottawa over foreign worker ban

AYR Motor Express sues Ottawa over foreign worker ban

Woodstock-based trucking company says it was unfairly banned from using foreign workers

By Julianne Hazlewood, CBC News Posted: Sep 27, 2016 7:00 PM AT Last Updated: Sep 27, 2016 7:00 PM AT


AYR Motor Express is suing the federal government for banning the Woodstock-based trucking company from the temporary foreign worker program over what it considers a grossly unfair decision that has cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Minister of Employment and Workforce Development, Maryann Mihychuk, barred the company in July from using temporary foreign workers to fill trucking vacancies.

She alleged AYR Motor Express did not pay transportation costs for foreign workers and deducted money from workers’ wages without written agreement.

In a letter to the company on July 21, Mihychuk wrote « I have concluded that you gave the department false, misleading or inaccurate information, » when requesting to employ more foreign workers.

AYR Motor Express had been using the program, which helps companies fill short-term labour gaps with foreign nationals, for trucking vacancies since 1999.

Chronic worker shortage

The company claims it provided the government with all necessary documents to show it wasn’t breaking the rules after the department started its investigation in November 2014.

In its lawsuit filed with the Court of Queens Bench on Sept. 12, AYR Motor Express said the government didn’t tell the trucking company why it was initially being investigated.

AYR Motor Express alleges it essentially hasn’t been able to employ new temporary foreign workers since the investigation started.

The company said the government’s poor handling of the situation has eroded AYR Motor Express’s reputation and the lack of temporary foreign workers has led to a chronic worker shortage.

The Employment department’s investigation into the company started after reforms to the program by then employment minister Jason Kenney, following media reports of widespread abuse to the program from companies across the country.

The changes included barring employers from hiring low-wage temporary foreign workers in areas the unemployment rate was above six per cent.

‘Stand by my decision’

In a statement to CBC News, Mihychuk defends the ban on AYR Motor Express.

« I took a decision based on facts and evidence, and I stand by my decision, » said Mihychuk.

« I take the integrity of the temporary foreign worker program very seriously. »

It’s not the first time AYR Motor Express has resorted to the courts to fight the federal government over the temporary foreign worker program.

In federal court, the company filed for a judicial review in April 2015 after the Employment and Workforce Development Department revoked three of its labour market assessments to employ temporary foreign workers and listed AYR Motor Express on its web site as one of the companies that had broken the rules.

The Woodstock company was taken off the web site in Oct. 2015, but the judicial review was eventually dismissed several months later in Aug. 2016.

About 80 per cent of trucking companies in Atlantic Canada use the temporary foreign worker program to fill labour shortages, according to the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.