Interesting Article: Foreign workers fault Six Flags

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by vistaway, Sep 13, 2004.

  1. vistaway

    vistaway New Member

    An interesting article about an international program for Six Flags theme parks...

    Foreign workers fault Six Flags
    Saturday, September 11, 2004

    AGAWAM - Traveling to America to work at Six Flags New England did not turn out the way Muharrem Yasar expected this summer.

    The Turkish student was promised 50 to 60 hours of work per week. The agreement he signed with Alliance Abroad, a job placement firm, also stated he would work at a "popular summer beach resort" and receive housing for $75 per week.

    The $75 per week fee for housing was correct. But the nearest beach is 100 miles away. And instead of working 50 to 60 hours a week to help defray the $2,000 Yasar spent to come here, he normally worked 40 hours a week at $6.85 per hour.

    The change in working hours was due to an "administrative error," according to Alliance Abroad Chief Operating Officer Lauren L. Stone. In response, Alliance Abroad tried to rectify the situation and offered Yasar and others working at Six Flags New England second jobs to make extra money. They declined the offer, Stone said.

    But more than anything, Yasar complained about a double standard for international employees and American workers.

    Yasar also feels he was unfairly fired last week by Six Flags New England for what park spokeswoman Mary Ann Burns called an "extreme safety violation." Yasar grabbed onto the rearview mirror of a shuttle bus carrying foreign workers from the park to their dorm.

    Yasar admitted he grabbed the mirror. But he said he did so because the bus was half-full and he was furious at the driver, who frequently drove away as people chased after the bus and who often called the foreign workers "animals."

    "The main point is their attitude towards us. We don't like it," Yasar said, standing across the street from the dorm-style building on Mill Street in Springfield where he and the other international students working at the amusement park have lived this summer. "They have no respect for you."

    Fellow workers clustered around Yasar on the street recounted similar, unpleasant experiences this summer.

    "It's terrible," Amanda Pessoa of Brazil said. "We've been treated very badly."

    Pessoa and others recounted being denied bathroom breaks for one hour, forced to use separate entrances from American workers or being sent home early without warning if there was not enough work for them.

    And the outlook for the future is not much brighter, according to Artis Dobowolskis of Latvia. "It happened last year, it happened this year and it will happen again," he said, "because there will be new fools."

    But Six Flags New England insisted such complaints do not reflect the experiences of most international workers. No one was denied bathroom breaks, Burns said. Foreign workers are not forced to use different entrances from American workers. As for changes in work schedules, Burns said the park does so for all workers, often due to inclement weather.

    "We don't change their schedules just to change it," she said.

    In addition, Burns vehemently denied having a double standard for international workers and American employees.

    "That's absolutely not true," Burns said. She added, "We do things for them (international workers) we don't do for other employees," including organizing parties and field trips to Boston and New York.

    Burns added the bus driver who drove away from Yasar no longer works at the park. Burns declined to say whether the driver was fired or quit.

    The same labor laws apply to workers regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens or international workers here on temporary visas, according to officials in the U.S. Labor Department's Boston office. However, certain rules do apply to foreign workers, such as how long they can work in this country, depending on their type of visa.

    A total of 260 foreign workers worked at the amusement park during its peak this summer, Burns said. Most were college students on summer break. Currently, 120 international employees work at the park, which employs 2,000 people total.

    With this many people, Burns noted there will sometimes be complaints. "You can't make everybody happy," she said.

    But she added, "I think the (international worker) program is a great program."

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