Recruiter Liwayway “Lily” Miranda and her manpower firm have been ordered to return fees charged to migrant workers for jobs at a GTA mushroom farm.  (FACEBOOK)

Toronto, Ontario

‘Significant’ and ‘rare’ decision

By Ted Alcuitas

Eight Filipino migrant farm workers have been awarded $43,350 by a Toronto court as a refund of the fees charged by an illegal recruiter.

Deputy Judge Michael Bay of the Toronto small claims court ordered Liwayway “Lily” Miranda and her company,  A&L Hammer Workforce Management and Marketing to return fees charged to the workers and awarded them damages.

“They recruited abroad for workers and facilitated and charged for the various steps required for temporary foreign worker certification,” Bay wrote in his  decision.

Ryan Aporbo was among a group of workers who worked for Sharon Mushroom Farm  in 2016. (Nicholas Keung/ Toronto Star)

The judge said Liwayway was not legally entitled to provide or charge for here services.

Only licensed lawyers and immigration consultants can charge for legal advice, the court decision said. Miranda was neither a lawyer nor consultant.

Sharon Mushroom Farm in East Gwillimbury, which employed the workers, was also named in the lawsuit, but the claims against it were dismissed.

President of Sharon Mushroom Farm Laxman Marsonia stands in front of mushrooms that are ready for harvest. – Mike Barrett/Metroland

 

The workers claimed they were recruited by Miranda who provided them legal advice regarding immigration matters for which they were charged a fee.

The decision was hailed by migrant worker advocates as a “significant victory” for the eight migrant workers in the legal action — and for the migrant justice community.

“Despite all odds and the constant fear of deportation, these workers organized collectively to demand an end to abuses and injustices they endured,” Chris Ramsaroop of Justicia for Migrant Workers, told the Star. Justicia is a grassroots advocacy group for migrant farm workers.

He called on the province to “license and register recruiters and increase resources so that proactive inspections are undertaken and precarious workers are not put at risk.”

Jun Saludares, acting as counsel for the workers, said his clients were pleased with the outcome of their action.

“They felt they were vindicated,” said Saludares. “It’s rare for migrant workers to stand up for their rights, let alone winning a court case. Most of them don’t know about their rights and are too afraid to stand up for their rights and risk being kicked out of the country for complaining about mistreatment.”

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