January 5, 2020 0 Comments Oilfield Industry

The New Normal in Alberta: Employers not Paying Workers

In Alberta lately, there has been a surge of businesses not paying their workers. TD has had a bad problem with people missing mortgage payments because their employers or clients haven’t been paying them. I lost count of how many times I had to fight for unpaid work or how many times I have seen it. I remember growing up in my hometown in BC and it was a big deal to be owed even a little bag of weed or $100. Many many people would know a thief and he/she/it would not last. Why it is allowed to happen here is a good question.

Employer Strategy: Fear, Attrition, Lawyers, and Legal System Abuse

The employers’ strategy? Attrition. Abusive, vexatious litigation to discourage creditor action to collect unpaid debt. “The rich get richer”, as most people do not stand up for themselves. Corporations and employers assume that if you do not have money for lawyers and court, then you won’t go after your money. Or they entice fear into your eyes, and make it prohibitively expensive to pursue your money.

The Slow Reality of the Canadian Legal System

The legal system is slow. From the time you start legal action to actually getting a judgment/court order, it can be months to years.

1) Legal advice/research

2) Applying at the court (suing)

3) Serving the court documents

4) Waiting for actually court dates. You’ll get a mediation or Pre-Trial conference first – and be lucky if your defendant doesn’t show up or makes a deal there. If not, you’ll have to have an actual trial, which can be another few months to a year. Or longer.

Winning in Court: It’s not Over. Enforcing your Judgment.

After you get a decision from a judge, then there’s the enforcement process that the courts don’t help with. The courts will have you or your lawyer/third party go file papers for either seizure or garnishment. Once that’s done then you’re on your own (or a third party) to actually enforce the court orders. You or this party would need to find the defendant’s source of income or assets, then serve them the order to seize assets or garnish their income.

I even had to threaten to sue a scabby construction outfit for around $500 and hire a collections agency for $400 in 2018. The latter was the smallest amount I had to put my foot down to collect. The largest was a bit north of $70,000 – which I had to go to court for, and have yet to acquire a judgment to collect.

I did not get the $400. But I can’t help to not feel sorry when I drive by their yard and see 80-90% of their iron parked.