I received an email today, reprinted with permission, text as follows:
Do you know about the Wage Earner Protection Program (“WEPP”)?
I have just sent a letter to Jean Crowder outlining what the employees may be able to do to get their money.
This is the text of the letter…
Jean Crowder, MP
101 – 126 Ingram Street
Re: Batlang Contracting Ltd
I am a Trustee in Bankruptcy in Alberta. I saw you interviewed on CTV in connection with Batlang and employees who were not getting paid as the result of CRA’s actions.
One piece of legislation that was not mentioned in the television article was the Wage Earner Protection Program (“WEPP”) recently invoked (largely at the urging of the NDP). This was a large and material omission on the part of CTV since this may be a way the employees can be paid. The employees need to get together and persuade a Trustee in Bankruptcy in BC to act as Trustee and then the WEPP swings in. It seemed to me that nobody knew this. There is lots of information on WEPP on the net. The irony of the situation is that if WEPP is invoked, the Federal Government will be paying out on one hand what CRA took with the other!
Can you ensure the employees get this information? There might be some political kudos too. If I can help further, please let me know.
BROMWICH & SMITH INC.
David M. Bromwich FCA (UK)
Chartered Insolvency and Restructuring Professional
I wrote back the following:
I see a problem. One of the planters noticed this already. Here's a post on my message board from September 17:
"As of the last few days, it looks like there is no recourse for Batlang planters to recover their earnings. Some of us have lost upwards of five thousand dollars. I think the collective figure is upwards of $150 000. Brian is declaring personal bankruptcy -- if he had declared corporate bankruptcy planters would be eligible for compensation underWEPP, but in this case we get nothing at all."
It seems to me that I recall someone else mentioning this, and saying that Brian doesn't actually have the funds to go ahead and declare bankruptcy, because of estimated costs of $20,000, although I am not sure where I heard that. Mind you, for $150,000 in wages, you'd think that the planters could even chip in the $20,000. I'm sure that they would be incensed at the very suggestion, but if it was me, and I could get that whole $150,000 back for paying $20,000, I'd be thinking about that pretty quickly.
Yes, the employees (or at least a few of them - maybe the ones who were owed the most) need to gang together to put up about $3,000 to petition (force) the company into bankruptcy. You have to do this because it looks like Brian won’t bother or can’t afford to fund the Trustee. The $3,000 will fund a bankruptcy trustee in BC who will agree to be the Trustee of Batlang Contracting Ltd. The Trustee has a few statutory duties like notifying the creditors and holding a First Meeting of Creditors. BUT he doesn’t HAVE to do anything else unless he’s funded – and he won’t be. So there he stops! Now, the employees can ALL claim under WEPP.
Whether the owner (Brian?) goes personally bankrupt is absolutely irrelevant. It’s the corporation that has to go bankrupt because IT had the employees.
The Trustee will do the absolute minimum and then stop. He’s allowed to do that. I know some trustees in BC and can talk to one of them if you can help the guys get the seed money together. They will have to work out how to get it back from everybody. WEPP takes about 6 weeks. There’s lots about WEPP on the net.
Yes, you can send this letter to anyone you like.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you need more guidance!
So if even about fifteen of the affected planters are willing to chip in a couple hundred dollars each to get the ball rolling, this might be a solution.
If someone in a leadership role who was affected by this situation can talk to people, and see if there is any interest, you can then email me and I'll give you David's contact info.