Corporate greed beyond belief

34 posts / 0 new
Last post
Corporate greed beyond belief

This post is meant as the background information for a serious labour issue, which, in the opinion of the author, requires legislative action.

I used to work for Canadian Tire (CTC further down) in their student employment program, it was at one of their distribution centres.
The conditions of employment, as were advertised on their site, were very appealing - you should be able to work 28 hours per week, 6 hours per day. You could tailor your schedule to satisfy those requirements.

The pay was $13 per hour, which was not bad for a student in the early 2000s.
However, on my first pay stub there was only $11 per hour; it turned out that $2 is withheld for every hour of work. They call it a "performance bonus".
This is a standard trick employment agencies use, they withhold some of your earnings and you get that money back if you had perfect attendance.
The agency, which was managing the temporary workforce at CTC at that time, was also withholding two dollars for every hour worked and they were paying it every three months to those who had perfect attendance.

However, if you had a perfect attendance, but left the agency before the "bonus" payment day, you would lose that money, even if you gave them a proper notice.

But it was even worse for those in CTC student employment program, as the money was being paid out only TWICE A YEAR - in May and November.

I graduated at the end of August; like all students, I was free to stay with CTC for a certain period of time (six months if I remember correctly). If one could not find a job during that period of time, he could apply to work for the agency, which was managing the temporary workforce at CTC.

While I was there, I have seen many guys leaving before the "bonus" date; quite obviously, once you graduated, you have to grab a professional position at the first available opportunity.
I heard many bitter remarks from people that they are being robbed of very substantial amounts of money through that "performance bonus", which should appropriately be called "ransom money".
They just could not believe that a company with such a significant public exposure would go so low as to rob people of their earnings in such a nasty fashion.

I have got a job offer in early November, I told them that I have three weeks left in the "bonus period" and unless I stay with CTC till that date, I am going to lose $1200.
They agreed to wait and that's how I was able to get my "Canadian Tire ransom money".

But that was not the end of the story, when I've got the money, it was some $400 less than should have been.
I told them that they have made a mistake and offered to give them copies of all my pay stubs. After that I've got the remainder.
But someone who did not bother to keep the pay stubs, would have been royally screwed by Canadian Tire. Surprisingly, many people are very careless when it comes to financial records, I have seen a great many pay stubs in garbage bins. Quite obviously, these people would not be able to prove anything.

Even though it is not spelled out, the underlying reasons for this practice of not allowing the graduating students get their "ransom money" before the scheduled payout date seems to be to save the CTC the troubles of attracting and training new applicants.
However, realistically speaking, both of those are non-issues, as they get plenty of applications from students and thus have many candidates to choose from. Plus the warehouse jobs are not rocket science, one can be trained in a couple hours and in a couple days he would be up to speed. For some jobs it is even less!

One might say that it is not easy to administer several dozen students, with many of them on different schedules, working on different days - one starts at 9 am, another at 4 pm, still another at 5:30 pm.
Obviously, it is easier to manage the "performance bonus" program with fewer payout days, but in that case they could have been deducting one dollar, which would have placed them at par in "money-grabbing terms" with the agency, that was managing the temporary workforce at that time.
But, as I have said, they were deducting TWO DOLLARS.

I am sure everybody heard stories of double-dipping in government, crown corporations, school boards - they have plenty of PAID sick leaves each year and they can even "monetize" those days, if they happened to be unused.

During a strike of outside workers employed by the city of Toronto in summer 2009 it was mentioned in the news that they were getting 18 PAID sick leaves every year and they could cash them when they retire.
Retiring teachers routinely get tens of thousand of dollars when they cash their unused sick leaves.

Private industry does not have any such perks and it is even worse with agencies and some money-grabbing corporations, with those you lose an entire "performance bonus" even if you missed a single day because you were really sick, running a fever or having some other family or medical emergency.
Even if you have a doctor's certificate, you still lose the "ransom money". I know one guy who had to go to a hospital emergency and he had still lost his "bonus".

It is true that people do not like low-end jobs, attendance can be a big problem, especially on weekends. But still, to penalize someone with hundreds of dollars for taking a day off or for leaving before the "bonus" payout day is excessive.

I believe such practices should be regulated by the government, with the allowable amount of "ransom money" not to exceed one-day earnings for any single "bonus period".




I have never heard of this. Is this common?

Did you sign an employment contract that spelled this out? Cause if not, you might want to talk to a lawyer. I don't believe it is legal to withhold wages without your express written authorization.

PS. Getting paid out for your sick time is not double dipping. It is a negotiated part of the employee's  compensation. People fought for that compensation.


There already are regulations prohibiting them from doing this.

Ontario Employment Standards Act:

Deductions, etc.

13.  (1)  An employer shall not withhold wages payable to an employee, make a deduction from an employee's wages or cause the employee to return his or her wages to the employer unless authorized to do so under this section. 2000, c. 41, s. 13 (1).

Statute or court order

(2)  An employer may withhold or make a deduction from an employee's wages or cause the employee to return them if a statute of Ontario or Canada or a court order authorizes it. 2000, c. 41, s. 13 (2).

Employee authorization

(3)  An employer may withhold or make a deduction from an employee's wages or cause the employee to return them with the employee's written authorization. 2000, c. 41, s. 13 (3).


(4)  Subsections (2) and (3) do not apply if the statute, order or written authorization from the employee requires the employer to remit the withheld or deducted wages to a third person and the employer fails to do so. 2000, c. 41, s. 13 (4).


(5)  Subsection (3) does not apply if,

(a) the employee's authorization does not refer to a specific amount or provide a formula from which a specific amount may be calculated;

(b) the employee's wages were withheld, deducted or required to be returned,

(i) because of faulty work,

(ii) because the employer had a cash shortage, lost property or had property stolen and a person other than the employee had access to the cash or property, or

(iii) under any prescribed conditions; or

(c) the employee's wages were required to be returned and those wages were the subject of an order under this Act. 2000, c. 41, s. 13 (5).

From what you say, you and your colleagues did not sign written authorizations allowing this money to be withheld from your cheques. Therefore it sounds like the company -- whether CTC, or the agency supplying the labour -- is violating employment standards legislation. 

It sounds like you personally did get what you were owed eventually. But if anyone is still having this kind of problem, they can call the Ministry of Labour in that province and ask them how to file an Employment Standards claim against their employer.

Unfortunately, without a union in place, they should also be aware of the risk to their job of doing so, because it's a fair bet that any company that is ignoring the law to this degree will also not hesitate to target an employee who tries to stand up for their rights. It might be possible to change jobs first, then ask for the withheld wages, and then file the Employment Standards claim within the prescribed time limits from the date of termination or the date of the request. The Ministry of Labour people should be able to advise on time limits and procedures.


Thank you for your replies, folks, and I apologize for somewhat careless terminology, I never worked for the government or for big companies and I was never paid for sick leaves. But I have seen the expression "double-dipping" in press, it was probably in a different context or there was something else to those comments.

Regarding the contract with CTC, something was certainly signed, but who would possibly bother to read the fine print? In those days a student would be happy to get a job at $9/hr, but here was a promise to get $13, even though, as we soon have found out, it was not realistically achievable.

At that time the temporary workforce at CTC was managed by one employment agency, since 2004 it is another, the current agency also deducts money towards this so-called "performance bonus".
One could miss a day because he was in hospital emergency and he would still lose the "performance bonus". As a matter of fact, one guy I know went exactly through that experience.

Regarding labour law, I doubt CTC or the agencies are blatantly violating the letter of the law, there must be some loopholes, which allow them to get away with such practices.

As far as I remember, some changes into the Labour Law have been introduced when Mike Harris was a Premier and those changes were sweeping enough to allow the employment agencies plenty of freedom to operate.




I enjoyed your story but can't say as I got excited. I take an interest in labour issues, particularly around low wages, and my understanding is many an employer will make a deduction, charge an employee for a service etc, such as their wage goes down to market level - $10 an hour for general labour. You and I both know $13 an hour was good for a student.

I personally have a degree in Computer Science but went through a series of bad projects and became unemployable. I lost my career. The cost to me wasn't $400 it was $1,000,000. I now work for $10 an hour. I laugh because my wife has a unionized government job. There's instability in the system and it's going to get worse as Asia industrializes. Most people acknowledge this. I suggest you keep a close eye on your ass in the future, as it's going to be a target.



bruce_the_vii wrote:

I enjoyed your story but can't say as I got excited. I take an interest in labour issues, particularly around low wages, and my understanding is many an employer will make a deduction, charge an employee for a service etc, such as their wage goes down to market level - $10 an hour for general labour. You and I both know $13 an hour was good for a student.

I personally have a degree in Computer Science but went through a series of bad projects and became unemployable. I lost my career. The cost to me wasn't $400 it was $1,000,000. I now work for $10 an hour. I laugh because my wife has a unionized government job. There's instability in the system and it's going to get worse as Asia industrializes. Most people acknowledge this. I suggest you keep a close eye on your ass in the future, as it's going to be a target.



Seriously? It is common practice for employers to make deductions to bring the wage to market level? Because if an employer is offering 13 bucks  an hour for entry level work, you can be pretty sure that he can't find employees for less, that is to say, that that is the market level. 

Labour Law abuse is rife in the retail and service sectors, but that doesn't make it legal, and I would suggest that anyone in this situation band together and consult a labour lawyer, or a union organizer.


A community legal clinic would be a good place to start for advice on this kind of issue. Their services are free for those with low income. A list of Ontario clinics is available on the CLEOnet site, along with information brochures on many different legal issues including employment rights, family law and tenant issues, many of them in multiple languages.



triciamarie wrote:
There already are regulations prohibiting them from doing this.

TM, even though the OP is lengthy, without seeing what Canadian Tire was advertising on its website, it's hard to tell what the hourly wage really was. I find it awfully hard to believe that anyone was paying non-unionized students $13.00 per hour in the "early 2000s" - don't you? If they were saying "$11 per hour, plus an extra $2 contingent performance bonus", that could easily be interpreted as $13 per hour. Not paying the $2 would not be unlawful by any stretch of the imagination.

The part I don't understand is the "employment agency". What's the name of the agency? Is it arms' length from Canadian Tire or not? Why does the OP criticize Canadian Tire, while claiming that the $2 is being "withheld" by the agency? And why would an employment agency pay, or withhold, a "performance bonus"? Surely only Canadian Tire can pay or withhold anything from a paycheque issued by them?

It could be misleading advertising (not clearly stating the hourly wage), or it could be much ado about nothing.

Conclusion: Unionize!




Thank you for your replies, folks; I was unable to get to my computer till after midday Saturday, so I'll try to reply to all posts without quoting any. CTC used to have only full-time staff, but after Wal Mart and Home Depot have moved in, CTC brought in an employment agency to handle a pool of temporary workers.

Agency people are working on CTC premises, but they are on the agency payroll. Full-timers with experience get $25/hr

I started at CTC through an agency, but then I applied to college and transferred as a student, as this was the only way to set my own schedule. Students are on CTC payroll.

Regarding my "grievance", I have none which I would want to pursue through the legal channels, this post is just an information for the general public, as for myself, I was not planning to make a career neither with the agency nor with CTC. After I graduated, I've got a job in a new field and to hell with CTC or the agency.

That is why advice regarding the possible legal recourse is of no use to me, even though I do appreciate the effort from those forum members.

As for the comments about employers making deductions to bring the wage to the market level, we cannot really know. My guess is that $13/hr is a lure to get people in. And the job was advertised as paying $13/hr, NOT as $11 + $2 for perfect attendance, as suggested by Unionist.

Warehouse jobs are not easy, lots of heavy lifting, lots of dust, sweltering heat in summer; when a shunt truck brings a trailer from the yard in summer and you open a door, it is so hot, you feel you can get your skin burned. You can only venture inside some quarter-hour after you opened the trailer door and even then it is impossibly hot. When you work in shipping, it is continuous loading into trailers. Many people were leaving during the first few days, as it is too much trouble even for $13. And on top of that you cannot realistically get those $13.

As of late 1990s-early 2000s Maritime-Ontario (Steeles-Finch) was paying $17 for loading-unloading trailers. I don't know if they were using agency.

Regarding the suggestion by Unionist to unionize, it is not realistic for the agency or students. When I was going to college, I was surviving on 5 hrs sleep, how could one possibly find time to start organizing under such conditions? And it is essentially the same with the agency. They can kick you out without any notice, you come from work, there is a message on your answering machine - sorry, we have to cut staff, you do not need to come back. Whatever money is still owed, will be direct-deposited to your bank account. Besides, as I have said, I was not planning to make a career with CTC.

There are many places, which pay less. I heard CanPar was paying $9.95 in the early 2000s, now it is $12. I don't know if they deduct anything towards "performance bonus". FedEx pays 9.50-10.50 (from an ad in a student paper in 2007). CanPar does not even have fixed shifts, you can finish at midnight or it could be 4 am. FedEx night shift starts at 3 am. How you get there at that hour is your problem. It is backbreaking work at a courier company; continuous, nonstop loading/unloading in a dusty trailer. With this regards CTC and its agency are not that bad at least for the fact that they have fixed shifts and you can get there on public transport. As for this trick with "performance bonus", I found it a bit nasty and I thought it might be interesting for others to know.


I was told that it's common for sweat shops to pay a little better than $10 and then not pay overtime or charge for uniforms or some such which reduces your pay back down to $10. It's plenty irritating for the employees. Lots of people looking for better jobs.

I worked for a company of about 50 people, an automotive parts dealer, and I saw the boss fire about 50 people in five years for small reasons. They could have gone to a lawyer but they go on EI and get another job and the financial loss is minimal. This idea that a laywer can help pertains to a loss of a career that pays well and the financial loss is worth sueing for. Lots of petty abuse on the job. Half the issue with having unions is to prevent abuse.

At this small company that fired all these people what happened is the other employees got into it. Joe made a few mistakes, fire his ass.



Frankly I find it bizarre that people are stepping in here to defend a corporation and its reportedly shoddy and possibly illegal hiring practices.

B_vii, as I noted, there are avenues for recourse outside of litigation, specifically an Employment Standards claim. Poverty law specialists at a community legal clinic would at a minimum be able to assist in filing that claim; they might also have further suggestions. You indicate that losses are usually minimal, but I have had many clients, particularly older workers, who lost their full-time jobs when their factories closed, and were never able to find full-time regular work again because so many of the smaller industry and warehouse jobs are now temp. They worked as temps for years, sometimes for the same employer.

Onion, I am aware that you are not at a personal loss out of this, and my comments were explicitly directed to anyone else who may be having a similar problem -- the serious public concern that your OP alluded to. In response to my initial post you indicated that the rate of pay might have been detailed in the fine print of a contract you did sign. Whether or not that is the case, it is probably reasonable to expect that where conditions of employment differ so substantially from what is advertised, that difference ought to be communicated to prospective employees directly -- particularly considering that many applicants would be unable to read and understand a fine print contract. Whether or not that omission is actionable in some cases, alone or with others who are similarly affected, I'm not sure.

Unionist, it is a common practice for big box retailers and other large companies to contract out general labour positions to temp agencies. This has many advantages for the company and many disadvantages for the workers. The situation here in Ontario will hopefully be improved somewhat when an amendment to our ESA comes into effect this October I believe, which will prevent agencies from charging certain fees to workers, it will eliminate the fee charged by the agency if the company wants to hire the worker as a regular employee, and it will make both the agency and their client the employers of the worker for some purposes. This amendment was championed by the Workers' Action Centre in Toronto in concert with poverty law activists and some unions. The major concern in my field of workers' compensation is what effect this will have on the ability of temp agencies to escape their obligations to injured workers, in a way that no natural employer can ever do (ie one of the advantages to companies of hiring disposable agency labour).

I did mention the advantages of unionization in my initial response. If this is a large warehouse, I suppose there is theoretically some possibility of attracting the interest of a union in organizing, despite the low wages, remote employer, and high turnover. I wouldn't hold my breath though.


TM & Onion, I apologize for any perception that my post was minimizing the importance of this situation. Actually, my original purpose was merely to state that this didn't sound like a "deduction from wages" that might be actionable under Employment Standards. That's where "fine print" tends to succeed. I'm glad to hear from TM that some reforms are coming to the ESA. And Onion, I've worked those jobs too in non-union settings, without apparent protection or recourse, so I'm fully on board with your raising this cautionary tale here. My "Conclusion: Unionize!" is just my usual standard mantra. It was in no way meant to minimize the near-impossibility of organizing in such circumstance. But you know what? In the final analysis, it is the only solid solution. Unions must make it known that they welcome phone calls from any worker in distress. Whether they can launch a campaign or not, at least they can offer advice or steer them in the direction of specialized organizations and individuals that can help.



Here is some additional info regarding this post and in response to the recent posts by other forum members: Full-timers with experience at CTC make $25/hr and thus are not interested in starting a confrontation with the management by trying to unionize.

These wages are the legacy of the old (pre-WalMart) days, when CTC was awash with money. In the late 1980s, they have even ventured into US (Buffalo) under a somewhat inappropriate name "White Stores".

But after several months and several tens of millions CTC had to scrap all hopes of establishing itself in US. CTC had even bought Marks' Work Wearhouse, which was a very bad business decision in my opinion, as Mark's is essentially nothing more than a shingle, it is not like when you buy a high-tech company with engineering expertise, patents and customer base.

The situation today is very much different, with CTC being hard-pressed by Wal Mart, Home Depot, as well as other retail conglomerates. In response to those realities, in 2004 CTC started "shaking out" its full-time staff in an attempt to shift the composition of their workforce towards the temps employed by the agency.

As a part of that scheme they have introduced ten-hour shifts, with the day shift beginning at 5:45 a.m. and the "afternoon" one ending at 1:45 a.m. This allowed them to save on quite a few team lead salaries.

But still, they continue to pay $25/hr to full-timers with experience. I would imagine CTC management could not come up with a workable scheme to reduce wages. (I state this strictly as an impartial observer) And overall, realistically speaking, the only people who could dream about unionizing are the temps, but their reality is such that it is next to impossible to do anything.

Regarding the actual signing of contract for the temps, when you come to the agency, you go through a process, which involves computerized test with basic math and comprehension, then you fill out and sign plenty of papers, up to your consent to conduct criminal check, to agree to a deduction of the cost of gear and supplies, such as safety glasses, body harness for those who work on heights, "smart pass", plus other things, whatever you get for your position. (Fees for criminal check vary from $10 to $25 from agency to agency) When you return the gear at the end of your employment, the refund is issued. On the next stage you are given an orientation handout with all the details. You do not sign anything at that point.

As far as I remember, at no point you sign any document, which specifies how much you get paid. This "understanding" is essentially arranged "by proxy", you come to the agency, fill out an application, other forms, sign them all; all this de facto indicates your acceptance of other terms, which you may not even see in "legal language".

It is essentially like in US Army when recruits are told to step over a yellow line, thus indicating their decision to join the army. This is a trick to circumvent the Constitution clause forbidding involuntary servitude.

Here are some excerpts from the handout I have got at the orientation (I retyped it exactly, including capitalization):


Orientation and Power equipment training: $9.00/hr Day Shift: $12.00/hr for the first 35 days (5 weeks) post-orientation $13.00/hr after working for 35 days (5 weeks) post-orientation.

BONUS STRUCTURE: A $1.00 per hour bonus shall be paid for perfect attendance (in addition to the Regular Pay Rate) for [...] Associates working at CTC.

Unauthorized absence or lateness will result in a loss of the bonus. The bonus is paid monthly based on attendance in the previous month. Associates must be working at CTC the week following the qualifying period to be paid the bonus for the previous month. (this is from the agency which started in 2004, the previous one was deducting $2 and you were on a hook for 3 mos)

(regarding "unauthorized absence", high fever or admission to hospital emergency do not count as "authorized")

This is a part of the orientation handout and you do not sign anything. Regarding the "bonus", according to the text, it is IN ADDITION to the regular pay rate, but in reality, the money is deducted first and then paid back if one had perfect attendance.

I would imagine this would not stand a legal challenge, but, realistically speaking, who would go to court for a few hundred dollars? I worked for a company, they have manufactured some stuff for the customer for the amount of 20,000. Customer did not come to pick up his order and did not pay. They did not go to court, since they would have to spend plenty of money in legal fees for a chance of getting the judge's order, which they could then pass on to a collection agency. So it looks like even $20,000 is not the amount where you can hope to recover your losses by going to court.


Onion, there are lots of reasons to avoid going to court. Legal fees are certainly one of them. The time it takes is another. It also involves lots of aggravation and an uncertain outcome. For a company, the potential loss of reputation is another deterrent; for a temp worker, the equivalent is the possibility of being black-listed by the temp agencies -- totally illegal but quite a common occurrence, from what I have observed.

Nevertheless there are significant differences between a worker trying to recoup wages, and a company trying to force a purchaser to honour a contract.

A company would have to pay their own legal fees. A low-income worker may be able to get free legal help. So that is a big difference.

An ESA application is handled outside of court. In theory, that should reduce the amount of stress and intimidation for complainants. There is no equivalent quasi-judicial agency for contract enforcement; they best that a company could do would be to knock down the damages and sue in small claims court, which is still a court.

There are mechanisms to force employers to pay ESA judgments. That is another difference.

Many companies can probably stand to lose $20K a lot easier than low-income workers can lose a week or two of take-home pay (or more, in some cases). That is another factor.

I'm not suggesting that legal remedies are ideal. Far from it. You yourself figured out a way to get what you were owed without resorting to the legal system. That is perfect. Having said that, I think it would be unfortunate if people received the impression that outside of unionization, there is nothing that can be done to address an employer's high-handed abuse of vulnerable workers. There are steps that can be taken, and for some workers, it is worth every minute of time that it will take them to try to bring that employer to justice. The money may even be less important to such a worker than the principle. I see that all the time in workers' comp -- workers will endure the agony of years of appeals, knowing that it's probably not worth their while financially, but they do so in the hope and expectation that their employer will learn an important lesson about treating workers with respect.

(BTW, thanks for the info about the company-wide changes in 2004 -- that's good information that I will check out for an appeal I'm handling for one of your colleagues.)


Can ESA complaints be filed as a group, Tricia-Marie?


This is not my specific area so take this with a grain of salt, but my answer would be yes and no.

In Ontario, there is no provision that I am aware of for filing a joint ESA complaint. However, Employment Standards Officers have broad powers to inspect the records of any employer, with or without notice to the employer, eg. where there is evidence to show that their payroll practices are contravening the Act. Any complainant can request an investigation by the Employment Standards Officer assigned to their case, and if this results in a general order issued on the employer, they should receive a copy of that. 

One would certainly hope that ESO's would exercise their discretion to investigate this kind of a case, where not only are wages purportedly being withheld without workers' written authorization, but allegedly, one of the reasons why this "attendance" bonus is withheld is because of absence due to illness. There is another provision in the ESA (at least currently) that says workers have the right to take unpaid emergency medical leave for up to 10 days a year, without fear of reprisal by the employer. In this kind of a complaint the legal onus is actually reversed onto the employer to prove that they did not retaliate against the worker for being away from work because they were sick. It seems like it would be hard for an employer to prove that they are not discriminating against workers who fall ill, while at the same time explicitly holding out a requirement for perfect attendance.

That's my two cents but again, there are byzantine defences and time limits and all kinds of different remedies available under this Act. Furthermore, in some cases it would make more sense to turn to the courts, and once you file an ESA complaint I think you are then barred from litigating that issue. That's why I say that anyone thinking about filing a complaint should consider consulting a specialist first.


I should also say that by the time these cases get to a referee (on appeal from an ESO's decision) similar cases under the same employer can be heard together. I don't know what the process is leading up to that though.


Temp Agencies are SCUM and the sooner more people realize this the better. We need to drive these parasites out of the country.


I wonder if this is available in BC. Will have to do a little research.


Temp agencies have become big business in the last decade. I have the statistics somewhere. However they are partly an alternative to EI, providing a few days work if you can't get a job. So they have a role. I've worked for them a couple of times. When I hand bombed tractor trailers I got paid $8 an hour. Part of the problem is the economy is soft in most of Canada.


I hope I am not seen as devil's advocate, but here are my 2c in response to the latest posts: you hardly ever see a carton at CTC, which does not say "Made in China". This reflects certain realities and these realities are the main reason why our standard of living keeps getting worse and worse, forcing people to accept such terms of employment, as described in this thread. And once the things had gone to this point, one can even say that employment agencies "have a role to play"

The companies, which transfer production facilities to the cheap-labour countries is only a part of the problem, another, much bigger part are the government policies, which make Canada a party to various international trade agreements, which make it easy to move the jobs away and to bring the cheap imports in. But this is already going beyond the scope of this thread.

To get a feel of how far the governments are prepared to go in defending the workers, look at those scam artists which offer training for security guards. At this time there is no government requirement for such training and yet many companies are openly scamming the people who are not aware about the law. (It is true that many bona fide security companies do offer training, but they are not asking the people to pay for it)

Those companies could easily be sued for misleading advertising, both because they de facto imply that their training is required to get a job and because they are actually running job ads, even though they have no jobs to offer. On any given day you would find several such ads in Toronto Sun. Those ads all look the same - "65 security guards are urgently required!", "get paid for up to $18/hr as a licenced security guard" and so on. When you call them, you are told that you have to take a course first and the cost is as high as $360.

It would be very easy to put those scam artists out of business, but nothing is being done, as the people are getting fleeced. In view of that, what can we realistically expect from the government regarding the "performance bonus" system, as practiced by the agencies? To sum it up, we urgently need a law, which would prohibit penalizing workers for taking a day off. Or at least to limit a penalty to one-shift earnings during any given "bonus period", be that 1 or 6 mos. But under the current system one is penalized even if he had to take a day off because of a very serious medical emergency.


The one day off bit is pretty bad employee relations, unbelievable. However generally there is a lot of bad employee relations at the bottom. I don't think that you could really control this. My take on the issue is a tighter labour market would give the people at the bottom more regard by employers. I calculate the real unemployment in the Toronto area compared to Alberta is 14%, prerecession. Thus employers can turn over their staff at will.


Here are some observations about the situation with temporary labor at Canadian Tire (CTC further down). CTC has two categories of people - full-timers and temps (agency and students). Temps make half of what full-timers with experience make; as one can well imagine, this creates animosity, plus gives the full-timers a vested interest in putting down the temps in order to elevate their own status. There were only full-timers in the old days, this came to an end when one year some "material handlers" have logged in so much overtime that they ended up making more money than managers. Wal Mart was already moving in and CTC simply could not afford to pay their people this kind of money. And that's how employment agency was brought in. The idea behind an agency is "brutally efficient" - this allows to keep a pool of temporary workers, to whom nothing is owed except an hourly wage, which was $9, when the agency first started. Agency people (associates) are hired for a limited term and then automatically laid off at the end of it. It used to be two years, but from the second half of 2008 it is five months. This "theoretical efficiency" did not quite work in the beginning, as the people were not staying; cannot blame them, $9 per hour is very paltry money for such back-breaking work as loading trailers. CTC had then demanded that the agency pays $13 to make people stay. And that's how the pay rate on the agency side was upgraded. But the same agency, which was also managing temps at Zellers kept paying them $9. Apparently Zellers management did not want to force the issue. However, the agency was still deducting $2 for every hour worked and holding it as "ransom money"; one could get it only if he or she had perfect attendance. CTC had also introduced a so-called "student employment program"; one had to be able to work 28 hrs/wk in order to be considered for it. The pay was the same as agency, but the "ransom money" was being paid out twice a year (May and November) and thus people were "on a hook" for six months. A student was standing to lose many hundreds of dollars for leaving before the payout date or for skipping a single day. Everybody heard about "equal pay for equal work". It is a very egalitarian concept, but, realistically speaking, it can only work where money is not a problem, as in government. As for Canadian Tire, this is nothing more than a bad joke, with temporary people making a half of what full-timers make. This ratio becomes even more demeaning, considering the fact that full-timers have benefits, such as dental plan. And, of course, they are not "brutalized" for skipping a day. It is true that some warehouse jobs require great skills in operating machinery, such as lift trucks and pallet trucks. But still, I have seen agency people operating lift trucks with great proficiency and yet they were only getting paid half of the full-timers' rate. This produces a perfectly natural resentment on the part of temporary people, which, in my opinion, translates into substandard work. Here is an example from my own experience: Once I was placed to operate a wrapping station, where the received material is wrapped with stretch film before going into storage. (CTC employees, both temps and full-time, are routinely rotated between stations) A forklift driver puts a pallet on one of the two rotating tables, I attach the end of a plastic film from a spool, press the button and start wrapping it. The guy on a forklift was a temp, but very fast, the guys used to joke that they hope he is not assigned to their wrapping station, as he could "work you to death". As he was waiting for me to finish, he got off the truck and showed me how he works on a wrapper. It was fast, but it was in violation of the prescribed procedure and I told him that. I even added that a man from the storage area came and stressed that if we wrap the load improperly, they may end up spending plenty of time fixing it, having to put on a harness and climbing high into the automated storage racks. And, of course, while they are climbing the racks, the system is shut down. The required procedure is to make sure the stretch film would not "unwind" later. You either tuck it in at the bottom or make a cut in the plastic and tuck it in there. But you can save time and effort by simply pressing the end of a stretch wrap, thus making it stick. But, of course, a few weeks later the plastic may slide down and cover the label, thus making it impossible for the system to read the barcode on it. That guy told me bluntly that it makes more sense not to worry about it, since every temp is taking this shortcut. But if you go out of you way to do it by the book, you are making a forklift driver wait, thus creating an impression that you are not fast enough, which may cost you your job. On top of that, bending over several times every minute to tuck in the film at the bottom, doing it for ten hours every day can give you back problems. And so I've got the message and started wrapping it the way he showed me. Why not! I am only a temp there, I make less than half of full-timers' rate, I am hired for several months only, they can kick me out at any time, without giving any reason. In view of that, why do I need to give a damn about Canadian Tire? This is the attitude and I am sure every temporary worker at CTC subscribes to it - take a shortcut, if you can get away with it, treat them the way they treat you, it is only natural. There are great many areas where you can do substandard work and they cannot catch you. "Order consolidation" is a good example of it; it is a procedure whereby stuff from preliminary order pick-up is sorted by the individual stores. CTC uses machines to pick items from storage racks, they are called DeMags, by the name of its manufacturer. It rides on a monorail, operator gets a "ribbon" of orders made for his location, he picks the stuff and places it on a special board, which is loaded on a cart when full. Any particular cart can have many identical items, which have to be sent to different stores. People who are doing "consolidation" are all agency and students, possibly with the exception of a supervisor. There could be two - three dozen stores on an average "consolidation cycle", with some couple dozen people working in that area on an average day. If someone had placed an item on a wrong cart, it is pretty much impossible to catch him. They have special teams, which randomly pick the finished carts for examination. The stretch wrap is cut off, everything is reloaded on another cart, item by item and checked against a pick-sheet. As one can well imagine, this is a very time-consuming procedure, and it is a part of CTC overhead. But even then they are unlikely to catch the culprit, all they can realistically do is to give a pep talk and to appeal to "good work ethics". I worked several times in "consolidation" and I can say with certainty that if someone wants to give grief to CTC, he can do it with relative impunity. Once the cart has enough items, it is possible to put new items in the middle and it can only be discovered during those random check-ups. Imagine someone had lost the "ransom money" for skipping a day, for example, because of a medical, personal or family emergency. One would be quite upset and very likely think about getting even. And, of course, when you are getting paid a half of what full-timers get, you do not really need a special pretext. The "casual" status of temporary workers became even more demeaning when Canadian Tire had a power equipment failure in 2003 and had to run on diesel generators for several weeks. It was at Brampton distribution centre (DC) at Bramalea & Steeles. Everything had to be shut down for the first several days after that disaster, as the maintenance team was working on it; then they started powering up sections of the DC one by one. There was a huge backlog of orders and people were working plenty of overtime. It was a time and a half on Saturdays, but on Sundays the full-timers were getting paid FIFTY DOLLARS an hour. And imagine how it would make you feel when you work next to a guy who makes four times of what you make! Agency people and students also had to work Saturdays and Sundays, but they were not getting any extra payment. During that period of time people were being moved around, one guy who normally monitors an overhead conveyor was also sent to shipping at least once. But that one did not even bother to work, he was standing there, talking to another full-timer, while the agency guys were doing all the work. One could say that many companies pay even less; if you work at CanPar, Purolator, FedEx, it is a NONSTOP loading or unloading, and CanPar pays only $12. I have seen a FedEx ad in a student newspaper in 2007, it was 9.50 to 10.50 All those places have brutal shifts. At CanPar you can go home only after you have finished your trailer, it could be midnight or it could be 4 am. And there is no fixed start time either. It could be 6 or it could be 7 pm, depends when trucks come back. And so you come at 5:45 only to be told that today's shift does not start for another hour. And you cannot really afford a car at $12/hr. The night shift at FedEx starts at 3 am. How you get there is your problem. But when you work at a particular place, you do not really think about other sweatshops, it is only natural to form your opinion and attitude on the basis of what you are getting from your current employer. Using "CanPar logic" we can say that it is definitely better there than at some Chinese or Indian factory. Full-timers at CTC cannot possibly be ignorant about this situation, they have already gone through a big "shakeout", which started in 2004 and they would much rather have the management under an impression that the company cannot afford to cut any more full-time positions. And, of course, they understand that they would look better if they can create an impression that the temps are much slower than full-timers. Here is an example to illustrate it. Once I was observing how a full-timer was treating a trainee on a towveyor (it is a system on which carts are being driven around a DC by means of a chain that is similar in design to a bicycle chain, albeit MUCH bigger, it is in a "groove" on a floor, carts are attached to that chain by means of a pin at the front). It is not a particularly complex system, a guy who can do college, should be able to figure it out in a couple hours. A guy in training was a college material, it so happened that he quit after the first semester and was thinking about changing a major to have better employment prospects. The full-timer was very rude, he was putting down the trainee on every opportunity, I have to say I was shocked, as I was observing that "training session". Later the full-timer had advised the manager that the guy is not suitable and he needs another one. The second candidate had passed. I am sure the first guy would have passed if not for the bad luck of having to be the first trainee, who had to be "sacrificed" to prop up the image of a full-timer. It could not be more obvious that the full-timer had played it out this way to inflate his own status. I myself have got to taste essentially a similar treatment on another station, albeit without being yelled at; I have also observed another guy being subjected to it. Here is what happened to me: I was trained on a forklift and placed into receiving; my job was to place pallets on wrapping stations and then put them on a towveyor. The full-timer who was assigned to show me how things are done in the department had spent several hours with me, on and off, and after that I was on my own. Then the issue came up that I allow too many carts with empty pallets to pass by, which creates a problem, since they have to be unloaded on the first branch ("spur"). There are two switches on a spur, one to release the loaded cart and another switch to accept an empty one. I kept more empty carts on a spur than should be there; it was a violation, since this way the carts with pallets are more likely to miss the "window of opportunity" to enter the spur and they keep going and create a jam in a critical section of a towveyor. I told them that this information had never been communicated to me. The full-timer who was showing me how to work that spur, never even mentioned the second switch and in the end I had to find it out the hard way. Later I observed another agency guy stumbling over the same thing, it turned out nobody told him how to operate the second switch on that spur. And so I had to show him. There were other things, as well, which I had to find out through the "back door". I can only guess whether or not he did it deliberately, but one thing is certain, full-timers as a whole get their status elevated when a temp stumbles. There were also other issues, but this was a rather visible shortcoming in my performance. When the teamlead had spelled out that my performance "has room for improvement", he assigned another full-timer to show me how to drive a lift truck in that area. That turned out to be another example of misleading instructions. The guy said he keeps both feet on the pedals, this way it is "faster". I can only imagine how he does it when he is not training a temp, but I am sure a person with many years of lift truck experience would be able to do it both ways. But keeping both feet on controls is a serious safety violation, as a matter of fact, this is one of the first thing they tell you during general training - you only use right foot to manipulate pedals, just as you drive a car with automatic transmission. I decided not to confront him, but driving like that made my performance rather clumsy. He also said to cradle the load, which I find unnecessary, as you only carry it a very short distance. Manipulating with additional control increases the likelihood of an error and accident. There was a case when one guy forgot to "uncradle" a stack of pallets inside a trailer and ended up dragging it, as he started backing up. That created a big jam, as pallets were dislodged from the stack and the bottom pallet got broken. It took them a good quarter-hour to fix it, as they were pulling out the pallets from the stack one by one I can only imagine to what extent the CTC management is aware of the extent of the problem, but whatever it is, the way they seem to be dealing with the situation is to remove the temps if their performance "leaves room for improvement".


Hey Onion, I moved your post over here because I thought it would fit in well with this thread that you had started earlier.  Glad you're here and telling us about this stuff. :)


I believe it was inappropriate for the moderator to move this post to the bottom of an old thread. My request to return this post to the way it was posted by me remains unanswered. Workers had lost plenty of grounds to the employment agencies over the last decade and a half. There are plenty of people who have been relegated to the status of "disposable labour", who are at the bottom of pay scale, with no benefits and no kind of job security. I believe this information is important to understand the nature of this process and would be more accessible to viewers in the original, stand-alone thread. Canadian Tire (distribution centres) is a big employer of temporary workers. They probably pay $18/hr to the agency and the workers get $13. And even those $13 are not realistically attainable, as workers are penalized with a loss of "performance bonus" for taking a day off. I believe people should know these things. In view of that, I repeat my request to the moderator to return this post to the stand-alone thread, as it was started originally. There is also something wrong with the forum software, as it drops the line and paragraph breaks, which makes the text difficult to read. The preview was rendered with all the line breaks, but the actual post has none.


Whew! Too bad about the paragraph breaks but I made it through your post!

Onion, our general practice on this board is to consolidate related issues so that we don't get a proliferation of threads, and it helps when looking back for information in an old thread -- as I may be doing the next time I represent a forklift driver, whether from CTC or another warehouse.

I'm not clear -- are you still working as a temp now?


No, I am not working as a temp any more (I believe, though, this has no relevance to the issues I am trying to raise) I have tasted what does it mean working for an agency and I hope I would never again get stuck with that kind of employment. I believe many abuses can be addressed through legislative avenue and that is why I wrote about it. This country used to manage without employment agencies just fine but now they are everywhere. Obviously, in view of the availability of disposable labor, employers are free to exercise their choice, cannot blame them. I also believe that anybody should be free to set up an employment agency and to "sell" "disposable labor" to those who wish to buy it. However, temporary workers need legislative protection from the practice of taking away a part of their earnings to be used as "ransom money", as described earlier. And then let the market forces make the necessary adjustments.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Incidentally, what about the paragraph breaks? Is it possible to edit an exising post for the purpose of introducing line breaks?


Onion wrote:
Is it possible to edit an exising post for the purpose of introducing line breaks?






When you click "Submit" button right away, the system does not render the line and paragraph breaks. You have to do the second edit by pressing "Return" while in the Preview mode, then the line breaks will be rendered.- - - - -
This is clearly a software bug. - - - -
I do not have time to edit, I prefer to submit right away, but this way it all becomes a single blob, very difficult to read.

CTC Insider

Just to clear up some point made by Onion.

1/ CTC does not withhold any money from Student workers.  The students are paid an attendance bonus which is over and above their hourly wage.  As stated above it would be illegal for CTC to deduct this from anyones paycheque.  Sorry if the payout date didnt line up with your particular schedule but the payout dates and how the attendance bonus works are both clearly outlined in the offer of employment letter you received and signed when you were hired.

2/ Same idea applies to the Agency workers.  While I'm not going to get into debating if we should use them or not I can assure you that there is no money withheld from any employee.  If the agency employee has perfect attedance in a given month they recieve a bonus the following month, nothing is held back or held to ransom. Further the policy clearly states you would only lose your bonus for unauthorized absence, so if you had an appointment to attend to you could get the day off authorized without jepordizing your bonus.  Again as this policy is clearly stated on the Agencies door and I'm sure it was also outlined to you during your orientation. 

To gripe about it after the fact seems somewhat like sour grapes to me.




CTC Insider, what do the policies say about the effect of sick leave on the attendance bonus when a worker does not have an appointment to attend? Are there any other criteria in the attendance bonus policies, such as the total number of sick days, or requiring a doctor's note for every absence period or even every day absent? Does the employer pay for doctor's notes? What happens to workers who don't have a doctor? What about workplace injuries, are those periods dropped out of consideration under the policy? What about long-term illnesses, is a worker still required to prove that they are sick every time they fall ill? That could constitute harassment. Are those workers always offered alternate work within their physical capabilities, so that they don't have to take time off? What about statutory unpaid leave for family health emergencies, are those periods dropped out of consideration? What constitutes an "unauthorized absence" -- if you are occasionally a half hour or an hour late due to childcare or transit problems, would that eliminate eligibility for the bonus? If so, after how many instances, and does it make any difference how late you are and what the reason is? Do individual managers have the discretion to overlook infractions in favoured employees? Why is the attendance qualifying period apparently shorter for temp agency staff -- one month -- than for staff who are hired directly? Have there been any changes to the policy over time? You indicate that you are sure that the policy is outlined to all staff -- do you know for a fact that this is always done, and that this is the only thing that staff are told about the attendance bonus, or is it possible that there may be conflicting representations to some workers about this money being part of their hourly wage, as suggested above? Do you personally know if the employers consistently implement the attendance policies to the letter? Would you have any way of knowing if they don't? Is there any way for workers, particularly agency workers, to effectively complain to their employer if they don't agree with the employer's decision to withhold their attendance bonus?

Have CTC employees considered joining a union -- the only circumstance that would allow these kinds of issues to be fairly addressed?


I am sorry I have missed the latest activity on this thread, as I have changed my primary email. I do it periodically, as it begins to attract more and more spam.

What the "CTC insider" is writing smells of damage control. CTC could well have recently adjusted the wording of the employment description to avoid an appearance that they withhold the money. But this does not change the nature of their policies.

I do not remember the exact wording of a description, as it was several years ago, but I can assure everybody that it was just as hazy, as in the agency orientation/contact flyer I have quoted in my earlier posts on this thread. I guess it would take a legal argument to decide whether or not the earned money is witheld or the "bonus" is given. But this would probably be impossible because of what appear to be deliberately obscure wording on that "orientation page".

This kind of a wording cannot realistically be called a contract, it more resembles a general outline, a "contact list", with the names of the key contacts in the administration and their phones numbers, the timing of shifts and similar stuff. In view of that, the suggestion by the "insider", that this is a "contract" and you are free to "take it or leave it", stretches reality.

As for the student employment "outline", I can assure everybody that it did not say anything that if you leave before the scheduled payout date, you do not get your "bonus". "Bonus" payout dates were mentioned, but the wording was either sloppy or made deliberately obscure in order not to alert the people to the fact that they will lose a part of the money if they leave before a payout date.

I do have all my papers and I can find them, but at this point I have better things to do than spending half of my Sunday going through cardboard boxes with old papers. And on weekdays I often come home after 8 pm.

Here are some additional details to illustrate that the people were indeed under an impression that they get paid $13/hr. The advertised rate by the agency was $13/hr, it was clearly communicated to the associates. The rate for students was exactly the same. But the agency people were getting paid $11/hr, as was clearly indicated in the pay stub. We were told that we will get the "bonus" of $2/hr at a scheduled payout date, provided attendance was perfect during that period.

Exactly the same story was with the student employment program. The "bonus" payout was every three months by the agency and twice a year by CTC (for students). "CTC insider" claims that the earned money is not withheld, but the bonus is added. In order for this assertion to be valid, the advertised rate should be $11 with a clear promise to add a bonus for perfect attendance. But the advertised rate was $13, which, of course, made it appear that this is not a bonus people were getting, but the money they have already earned, which had been withheld from them and made conditional on perfect attendance

This entire argument can be resolved by changing a few words, which, I would imagine, CTC and the agency have already done in view of this exposure. One can argue about such technicalities till the second coming of Christ, but having worked both for the agency and CTC, I can state that everybody was under an impression that the earnings were being withheld and paid back if a person had perfect attendance.

The wording could have been made deliberately obscure in order to create an impression that the pay was $13/hr and thus add an appeal to those jobs. Regarding "unauthorized leaves", there was a procedure to apply for a leave. I do not remember how many days in advance one had to apply, but it was at least a week or it could have even been more, and thus could not possibly address any emergencies.

If one ended up with an emergency and had to take a day off at no notice, he was losing the "bonus", even with doctor's certificate, even if he spent that day in hospital. One acquaintance who was working at CTC through an agency had to go to the hospital emergency one day and he had lost his "bonus".

Regarding the "bonus payout" for students, the way the "Insider" refers to the whole process is somewhat flippant - "Sorry if the payout date didnt line up with your particular schedule..." This seems to be an attempt to sidetrack a serious issue with deliberately flippant wording. And the issue is that a student could have been working for over five months during that payout period without a single day missed, but then he is denied the "bonus" because he had graduated, got an offer of a professional position and had to leave before the scheduled "bonus" payout date.

This way a person ends up getting penalized with over $1000 FOR A SINGLE DAY he missed. (In my case it was $1200) And even though it could be in accordance with the letter of the "contract", it still reeks of robbery and corporate greed.

As for the name-calling by the "Insider" ("sour grapes"), I see it as a cheap attempt to imply that my "dark ulterior motives" were the real reason why I have started this thread. Well, I believe this is something the members of this forum may find interesting and informative and that is why I have written about it. As for the expression "sour grapes", "Insider" may want to do some reading, he would then find out that this expression refers to someone in a situation where he cannot get something and so he claims that it is no good anyway, which could imply that I am standing (symbolically) at the other end of CTC fence, full of envy of those who work there. Well, I do not need a job at CTC and thus this slight is clearly misplaced


Thanks for these posts Onion, I agree with you that there is reason to be concerned about these practices.



[url=]100 people and corporations running Canada[/url] More billionaire oligarchs per capita than either the USSA or Russia right here in the Northern Puerto Rico

Big man, pig man, ha ha charade you are.
You well heeled big wheel, ha ha charade you are.
And when your hand is on your heart,
You're nearly a good laugh,Almost a joker,
With your head down in the pig bin,
Saying "Keep on digging."
Pig stain on your fat chin.
What do you hope to find.
When you're down in the pig mine.
You're nearly a laugh,
You're nearly a laugh
But you're really a cry.