An Indian international student living in Brampton (Ontario, Canada) has won more than CAD16,000 in unpaid wages.
Satinder Kaur Grewal, 22-year-old, went public with her labour dispute against the operators of a local restaurant in Brampton.
Brampton has a large South Asian community and Indian international students often find part-time work with small businesses.
CBC News first reported on Satinder’s fight against her former employer, Chat Hut, last December.
She then filed a complaint with the Ontario Ministry of Labour alleging that she worked long hours and through holidays for less than minimum wage.
She further added that the company never properly added her in the payroll during her time there.
Satinder claimed that the restaurant’s owners paid her in cash, violated overtime rules and stole some CAD 18,000 worth of wages over a six-month span.
All this left her financially broke and severely depressed as Satinder left the job without being paid.
Grewal told CBC News in an email:
“Winning my wages has completely changed my life. When I worked at Chat Hut, it was very depressing for me because I gave my whole life to them.”
Satinder started working with the Naujawan Support Network to raise awareness about her situation. She observed:
“Even if nothing has happened to you now, in the future, your brother, sister and friends could face this problem.”
This is a grassroots organization in Canada that aims to help Indian international students and other young workers dealing with mistreatment and exploitation.
The group staged a protest at the Chat Hut on December 4, with her supporters chanting: “Chat Hut, Chor Hut” (Chat Hut is a thief) and “Lutt Lutt Band Karo” (Stop stop wage theft).
Parmbir Gill of Naujawan Support Network told CBC:
“Wage theft is no longer acceptable in Brampton. It has a cost now. Groups of organised workers will impose that cost through protests, boycotts, postering campaigns and other actions that expose exploiters to the community and force them to change their behaviour.”
The Ontario Ministry of Labour told the media it began looking into the case on December 23.
On investigation, the ministry found Satinder’s complaint valid.
However, during its investigation, the ministry confirmed Chat Hut decided to settle the dispute and paid her the CAD 16,495.29 she was owed.
“I learned that when bad things happen in your life, you have to stand up and raise your voice.”
Chat Hut’s management declined to comment or provide any further comment to CBC News on its settlement with Satinder Kaur Grewal.
In 2019, a report funded by StudyNSW entitled International Students and Wage Theft in Australia revealed that the overwhelming majority of international students are subject to wage theft and poor employment conditions.
Based on a survey of over 5,000 international students, the report found 77% of international students in Australia were paid below the minimum casual hourly wage.
The report highlighted that 38% reported that they did not seek information or help for a problem at work because they did not want ‘problems that might affect my visa’.