Mmakeng John Otsweleng came to Yellowknife from Botswana for work – but says a local company left him unemployed and nearly homeless two days later.

Otsweleng arrived in the city on September 21 to work with Northern Security Services (NSS).

By September 23, he says, his job offer had been rescinded following a disagreement over accommodation, which the company had originally listed as an employment benefit in an offer letter dated July 15, 2018.

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When Cabin Radio approached the company for comment, NSS human resource officer Joyce Van said: “It’s quite an interesting story.”

However, since Otsweleng has taken his case to the small claims court, Van said the company’s lawyers had advised NSS staff to say nothing further until the case is resolved.

The court case and its outcome could provide an insight into the experience of people immigrating to the Northwest Territories for work, the process followed by companies hiring foreign workers, and the protections afforded to both parties.

The territory is increasingly reliant on workers from other countries to staff several of its industries. Simultaneously, that flow of incoming workers helps to sustain and grow the territory’s population – a key priority for the NWT’s politicians.

‘Lack of appreciation’

Otsweleng says he first worked for NSS in 2016 as a mobile security supervisor.

He moved back to Botswana but then decided he would prefer to live in Canada – and asked the company if they had a position open.

“They offered me a position for mobile security manager … I accepted the job,” he said, explaining that he did not want to book a flight back to Yellowknife without a job already in place.

“When I got here [on September 21], they met me at the airport and asked how the flight was. They showed me the place where I’d be staying and said we’d meet tomorrow to discuss the job description,” he continued.

“I went in the next day and, when we met, they told me they were going to revise the offer. They told me they were going to take away the free accommodations.”

Otsweleng said the company did not adequately explain why this change was made. NSS said it could not comment with the case ongoing.

In his offer letter, accommodation is shown to be covered by the company and valued at $30,000 per year. Otsweleng says when the offer was revised once he arrived in Yellowknife, he was told he would now be responsible for rent amounting to $1,600 a month, excluding utilities.

Otsweleng says when he calculated how much of his $40,000 salary would go toward his cost of living, he told NSS he would rather find a cheaper room to rent privately than take over the company’s lease – a lease he says NSS had signed, and he had never seen.

“The 23rd was supposed to be the day I started work,” he said. “They called me again and they informed me that I ‘showed a lack of appreciation,’ and said they can’t trust me any more, so they withdrew the offer.”

Otsweleng says the company told him its decision was based on an ‘interview’ the previous day. However, given he had received an offer letter – seen by Cabin Radio – in July, Otsweleng believed he already had the job.

Part of Otsweleng's offer letter, dated July 15, 2018.
Part of Otsweleng’s offer letter, dated July 15, 2018.

In email correspondence from July also seen by Cabin Radio, Otsweleng tells Van he can’t find the offer letter’s signature page to indicate he accepts the job.

Van appears to respond: “The rest of the documents you will complete when you arrive … We are hoping all goes well and you’re able to join us by September 2018.”

After NSS rescinded the job offer, Otsweleng alleges, the company told him to move out of the company-owned apartment the next day – before eventually allowing him to stay until the end of that week.

He has since found new accommodation and a new job in Yellowknife.