Maritimes carrier guilty of mishandling immigrant drivers

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — As freight volumes continue to pick up, carriers thinking of recruiting drivers from outside of Canada to augment their fleets would be wise to learn a lesson from one east coast fleet’s tale.

The operations manager of Bulk Carriers out in Cornwall, P.E.I. recently pleaded guilty in provincial court to charges under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

More specifically, the company signed contracts with the drivers promising to cover flights to Canada and a return flight home, but tried to renege on the latter part.

According to a story by CBC, operations manager Mike Schutt said that when it looked like workers would leave before the contracts were over, Bulk Carriers changed the contract provisions and withheld the return flight costs. Schutt admitted it was an attempt to stop them from leaving, 21 of them in total.

The carrier specializes in refrigerated transport and employs about 60 people. About half of them are immigrant workers who were recruited through the low-skilled worker program.

The Canadian Border Services Agency began investigating Bulk Carriers after discovering the carrier failed to live up to its agreement with several immigrant drivers between March and July 2008. Schutt and the fleet’s owner Jack Kelly were charged in September 2009.

Kelly, who was facing the same charges as Schutt, did not appear in court. Under a plea agreement covering both Kelly and Schutt, only Schutt was required to enter a guilty plea.

In court, Schutt said the company was losing business as a result of the charges brought against him and Kelly and asked the judge for an absolute discharge so that the company’s reputation would be restored.

Judge Nancy Orr reserved her decision on that request but suggested the company make a $2,000 voluntary donation to a cause beneficial to the public such as a hospital or food bank. The judge said neither the province nor the company’s employees would be well served if Bulk Carriers went out of business but that there has to be some consequence for the company.

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