Over two dozen workers are entering their third week of protest in front of Live Freely Foods (LFF), an industrial bakery at 6310 Kestrel Road in Mississauga that has withheld tens of thousands of dollars in wages from its workers. On Labour Day, the workers hand-delivered a letter to the directors and owners of the company demanding they pay the wages owed.
Several months ago, many workers began to receive only partial payment for their hours worked while being promised that full payments would be made later when the company’s financial situation improved. These promises were broken.
The workers accumulated between $2,500 and $13,000 in unpaid wages each, and at least 50 workers have outstanding wages. Since LFF shut down, several dozen workers and supporters have organized a daily picket outside the bakery in Mississauga to demand their wages. On August 30, 2023, the company posted a bankruptcy notice on its front doors. Under Part XX of the Employment Standards Act, 2000, the company’s directors are personally liable for paying workers’ wages up to six months before LFF’s closure.
Stolen wages and the cost-of-living crisis
According to Satveer Kaur, an LFF worker, “Many of us have worked here for one or two years, maybe more. The owner has declared bankruptcy, though we are owed nearly three months in wages, close to $10,000 each. Our employer has refused to pay our wages.
“Though our employer has refused to answer his phone calls or respond to our messages, we have recently delivered a letter to the employer with a list of workers owed their wages. He cannot say he does not know about his responsibility to pay us.”
The factory workers, primarily immigrants from Panjab, India, and other communities, worked at LFF until its closure on August 24, 2023. Many regularly worked 12-hour shifts per day and upwards of 60 hours per week to prepare, pack and transport a range of baked goods. LFF products were later sold in Costco, Walmart, Metro and other grocery stores in Canada and the United States. LFF paid their workers $14.00 per hour, below Ontario’s minimum wage of $15.50, did not pay them overtime, vacation, or public holiday pay.
Many workers like Satveer came to Canada as international students and endured exorbitantly high tuition fees. LFF’s refusal to pay their wages has deepened the cost-of-living crisis for them.
Kaur said, “We were barely able to earn our living to pay for food and shelter, but now some of my fellow co-workers are facing threats of eviction by their landlords.”
Fight to win
On September 4, the workers hand-delivered a letter to both directors the person who ran the company with their demand to pay the wages by September 8 or meet with the workers to set up a payment schedule.
On Friday, September 8, 2023, LFF directors made a partial payment to the workers of $50,000 after intense negotiations with the workers and public pressure in the media. The workers will continue to hold the picket at 6310 Kestrel Road until their wages are paid in full.
“Why should we pay for the problem created by LFF? If workers are not entitled to the business’s profits, why should we pay for the losses?” said Kaur. “It seems like LFF is asking us to pay for their financial issues. We will continue holding the picket and increasing public pressure on LFF through our picket and the media.”
The workers will take further public and legal action against LFF, including working with Naujawan Support Network (an organization of immigrant workers and international students confronting wage theft and other forms of exploitation) if LFF fails to pay.
The former LFF workers maintain a daily picket outside the factory, typically between noon and late evening, as they prepare for the next stages of their campaign to recover their wages.
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