Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Drivers say elusive package courier for Temu has failed to deliver pay | CBC News

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Junot Raphael, seen here in his Gatineau home, says he spent weeks waiting to get paid by a mysterious package delivery company operating out of a warehouse in Ottawa. (Stu Mills/CBC)

There are questions around a company running a package delivery service from a warehouse near the Ottawa International Airport, as those managing the unmarked commercial space won’t say what it’s called or who’s behind it and drivers who worked there say they had to chase their supervisors for weeks for payment.

The delivery company appears to be contracted by Temu, an online discount shopping company, and hires drivers to deliver packages in the Ottawa region for $1.50 per delivery. 

Junot Raphael replied to a now-deleted job ad on Kijiji in May.

The 33-year-old began driving from his home in east Gatineau, Que., to a warehouse off West Hunt Club Road more than 50 kilometres away.

The father of three spent up to 12 hours a day in his own car, paying for his own food and fuel and delivering parcels ordered mainly from Temu to addresses as far away as Cornwall, Ont.

‘I feel like I was a slave’

Raphael said that when he asked when he would get a paycheque, he got only vague answers.

“I feel exploited. I feel like I was a slave,” he said.

Raphael claims he’s owed $1,800 after working over a dozen 12-hour days. He typically delivered 120 to 150 packages a day. 

His supervisor told him he would be paid on June 7, he said, but that day came and went. 

After weeks of waiting for his pay, and with CBC News filming, Raphael confronted one of his employers at the company’s Antares Drive warehouse.

“When I call you, you don’t answer. When I text, you don’t answer. You have been hiding for too long,” he told Tyron Jambo, one of the managers there. 

“You say you’re going to send me an e-transfer. You don’t even know my email address.”

A man scrolling through his camera roll on a phone showing a photo of a package.
Raphael scrolls through some of the photos he had to take when delivering his packages. He delivered 120 to 150 packages a day. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Driver’s employer shrouded in mystery

Just who Raphael has been working for has been difficult to piece together.

There’s no signage at the spartan and disorganized warehouse located inside one of the units of a commercial condo building near the airport. The managers, Caroline and Tyrone Jambo, declined to answer questions. 

The app that Raphael installed on his phone to guide his delivery work, and the labels on the packages themselves, carry “eMile driver” and “eMile Express” logos.

EMile lists a former Grand & Toy warehouse at 33 Green Belt Dr. in the Toronto neighbourhood of Don Mills as its headquarters.

Calls and questions to eMile about whether the Ottawa delivery operation was a contractor of the company or an eMile branch weren’t answered.

The Don Mills building is leased to eMile by The OTT Group of Companies, an electronic payment and foreign exchange company that handles financial transactions made on the WeChat and Alibaba platforms.

Boxes of packages inside a delivery warehouse.
The double-unit warehouse is attached to no individual or company names, according to the property manager, Alison Spoor. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Meanwhile, property records show the unmarked warehouse unit near Ottawa’s airport and a neighbouring unit were purchased in April by Jiayun Holdings Inc.

But Jiayun owner Leo Wang insisted his company, Jiayun Express, which is based in another unit in the Ottawa building, handles only shipments from Canada to China — not shipments to Canada.

Wang said Jiayun Express is not affiliated with eMile and merely leases the warehouse — the other space recently purchased by Jiayun — to the delivery company.

Wang would not say who was behind the Ottawa delivery company.

Partial payment arrives after CBC questions

Two days after confronting his former employers, Raphael received an e-transfer of $905 from a company called Chetattri Inc., a firm headquartered in the rural Ottawa community of Carp.

In a statement emailed to CBC News, Temu said they communicated with the delivery company and now “understand that the outstanding wages have been settled.” 

But at the time of that email, the wages had not been settled, employees told CBC. Temu did not answer questions from CBC about that or about the name of the Ottawa package delivery operation.

Raphael is not the only one still waiting. 

Luc Roger, a former Ottawa driver, claims he is owed nearly $250 as well. 

Roger said he grew suspicious and stopped driving for the company when he wasn’t asked for banking information and emails to Caroline Jambo about payment went unanswered.

A man sitting with his young daughter on a couch.
Raphael, a father of three children, sits with his daughter at their home. He says his experience with the delivery company has left him feeling ‘very low.’ (Stu Mills/CBC)

Property standards complaints

Problems with payment is only one of the accusations facing this company.

Fareed Dean, who sits on the building’s condo board, said the double unit on Antares Drive had been purchased in April.

Since then, he said that packages are scattered across the lawn and parking lot.

The packaging debris in the parking lot has at times blocked the entrances to other businesses and made it impossible to drive through, Dean said.

He also said he’s had a member physically threatened and he receives ongoing complaints from other condo members.

“Nothing has been responded to,” Dean said. 

Dozens of boxes scattered around a parking lot, blocking the lane for cars.
Packages and debris are seen scattered across a parking lot outside a delivery warehouse near the Ottawa International Airport. Two drivers told CBC News they struggled to get paid by the delivery company. (Submitted by Fareed Dean)

Ottawa’s bylaw service department has been called six times since May 28 about the parking situation and complaints about garbage scattered around the property.

Last month, police were called when a shouting match erupted between the delivery business and a neighbour occupying other commercial units. No charges were laid.

For Raphael, the whole experience has left him feeling “very low.”

“If it was in [a] society where slavery exists, then I’d be like a slave. But [this is] a society where no slaves exist … it’s even worse.” 

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