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Farm workers appeal ruling

Three Indo-Canadian farm workers who were part of an employment insurance fraud court case are appealing the ruling.

The decision handed down last month exposed systematic exploitation of workers by their contractor bosses and required about half of the 75 workers involved to repay benefits.

The Federal Court judge found workers were often required by their employer to repay some of their wages in order to get a falsified record of employment that would then entitle them to EI.

Swaran Singh Bains, 79, of Vancouver and his two daughters, both of whom have cognitive disabilities, are the three pickers appealing the ruling.

Although the three were largely cleared by the ruling, the judge refused to count as insurable earnings the wages the Bains family repaid to contractor S & S Harvesting Ltd. to get their records of employment.

Lawyer Sarah Khan, of the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, hopes to reverse that longstanding practice in the industry.

“We don’t think an employer or the federal EI system should be able to benefit from illegal demands from an employee for payment for records of employment,” she said.

“They shouldn’t have to pay for something they’re legally entitled to.”

The judge warned fraudulent practices in the farm contracting business continue.

jnagel@surreyleader.com

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