The province is investigating claims by nine former employees of a Whyte Avenue tattoo and bodypiercing shop that they didn't receive severance pay and T4 slips after they were laid off last month.
"It was shocking for us, really," said Sarai Jorgenson, former manager of Strange City Body Modification. "On Tuesday, we had a job and on Wednesday we didn't."
Jorgenson says Revenue Canada froze the company bank account in March.
After employees became concerned, the owner agreed to lay them off.
Former manager Sarai Jorgenson said that everyone is devastated because they loved their jobs and their clients. Former manager Sarai Jorgenson said that everyone is devastated because they loved their jobs and their clients. (CBC)
Instead, workers say their records of employment indicate that they quit, meaning that they can't qualify for Employment Insurance.
Some were able to find new jobs. But others are struggling without EI.
"It's really been devastating for all of us," Jorgenson said. "We loved our jobs, we loved the studio, we loved our clients."
The owner of Strange City, Richard Blaskievich, declined an interview with CBC News, but said he has met with his former employees and is trying to work things out.
CBC News has learned Blaskievich has filed for bankruptcy twice before. His last claim in 2010 lists a debt to Canada Revenue worth more than $430,000.
The former workers have spread word about their plight through social media.
The case has caught the attention of the province's largest labour group, the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"This story frankly smells pretty bad and I think it definitely warrants a pretty serious investigation by the provincial government's employment standards officials," said AFL president Gil McGowan.
The Alberta Employment Standards branch has received a formal complaint and will investigate.
CBC News, Friday, Apr 12 2013