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Most Ontario workers fighting for unpaid wages won't see a 'penny': lawyer

Last Updated Nov 22, 2017 at 6:36 pm EST

A huge number of employees who make claims with the Ministry of Labour for unpaid wages will never see a dime of what’s owed to them.

This is according to labour lawyer Howard Levitt who says the Ministry needs to do a better job at enforcing the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

CityNews reported a story on Tuesday about former employees of a Toronto-based company called, Green Republic Food Co. Several of them have come forward with allegations that they have not been paid thousands of dollars.

The Ministry has confirmed that there are two claims filed against the restaurant for wages not being paid. One on Aug. 24, and another, on Oct. 11, for a total of around $3,000.

But further research also indicates that the same man who is allegedly involved in the latest claims was also implicated in a previous claim dating back to 2011. According to former staffers, the point person for payment is Abdi Ghotb, Green Republic’s chef and consultant. The claims dating back to 2011 also involve a man named Abdi Ghotb.

“Two-thirds of people with judgements from the Ministry of Labour never see a penny,” says Levitt. “The problem is not with the potential recourse with the Ministry of Labour. The problem is employers know they can get away with it and they do.”

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn says the Ministry has made improvements to the ESA so that better enforcement of the guidelines can be achieved.

“We’re hiring another 175 inspectors in the province of Ontario, we fully agree we need more people out there and that’s our intent is to do that,” said Flynn.

“But we fully agree with those people who’ve said to us, ‘If you’re going to make the changes you’ve made to the ESA really meaningful so that the people that are owed money are able to collect their money than you need more people to help you’ and we agree.”

As for the claims made against Green Republic Food Co., it could be months before the Ministry decides whether to prosecute. If the restaurant is found guilty, the maximum penalty is a $50,000 fine and/or 12 months in prison.

The restaurant’s publicist, Kam Chuhan, said the company has paid everyone in full and has financial statements to prove it.

Green Republic failed to produce the documents when CityNews requested to see them on Tuesday.

In a statement emailed to CityNews, the company said: “We cannot talk with a third party about an employee’s personal information or disclose our financial statement as we are not a publicly traded company.”

“We are committed to providing an equal opportunity and fair environment for all our staff. Based on our records all employees have been paid to date as per our agreement.

We have not received any notification from staff regarding any outstanding payment.”