Liberal TFWP plan not a solution to Tory mess

Toronto – The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), Canada’s largest migrant worker coalition, believes that the 5-point demands issued by the Liberal Party of Canada on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) fail to respond to the needs of migrant workers or the Canadian labour market. Discussions on the TFWP must include the voices of migrant workers. MWAC calls for the following short, medium and long-term steps:

  • Short term: The Federal and provincial governments must ensure that migrant workers can exert their rights at work. This means: open work permits, TFW specific anti reprisal protections, equal access to social entitlements and strengthening labour legislation for all workers
  • Medium term: Full immigration status for migrant workers in Canada as we justly transition to a long term solution;
  • Long term: Permanent immigration status for all migrants coming into Canada, including workers in low-skilled occupations and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.

“The Liberal plan fails to recognize that it is provincial and federal laws together that work to make migrants a second-class category of workers that are then pitted against unemployed citizens and permanent residents,” explains Tzazna Miranda Leal, organizer with Justice for Migrant Workers, member organization of MWAC. “The solution is to simply remove those exclusions from labour protections for all workers, thus making migrant workers and unemployed citizens allies in the fight for better jobs and stronger communities.”

Vinay Sharma, Human Rights Director for UNIFOR, Canada’s largest private sector union and MWAC member adds, “Once the provinces and the feds have cleaned up their act, we need to account for migrants already here. We can’t just get rid of them. Migrant workers in Canada need full immigration status. That’s the next step.”

“The Liberal demands today fail to recognize the expansion of TFWP as part of a dangerous shift in Canadian immigration policy towards temporariness and exclusion,” explains Perry Sorio, member of Migrante Canada, an MWAC member. “Permanency and stability are necessary to build healthy communities. We need to overhaul the entire immigration system and re-institute access to permanent status for immigrants in low-skilled occupations.”

Syed Hussan, MWAC Coordinator agrees. “Our members are a fundamental part of the labour market and economy. To treat them as a separate entity as the Liberals do makes no economic sense, and continues the divisiveness drummed up over the last month. Migrants are our friends and family, not just a market-input brought in when needed. Workers need to be at the table, making joint decisions.”

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Media Contact: Syed Hussan, Coordinator, 416 453 3632coordinator@migrantworkersalliance.org

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes Asian Community AIDS Services, Caregivers Action Centre, Justicia for Migrant Workers, Legal Assistance of Windsor, Migrante-Ontario, No One Is Illegal-Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, UNIFOR, United Food and Commercial Workers, and Workers Action Centre. www.migrantworkersalliance.org

 

Food Sector Ban Punishes Migrant Workers for Employer Abuse and Government Failure

Food Sector Ban Punishes Migrant Workers for Employer Abuse and Government Failure

mwac-logo-blueToronto – The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), Canada’s largest coalition of migrant worker groups and allies, is calling for immediate changes to the moratorium imposed on temporary foreign workers (TFW) in the food industry. A moratorium is not the solution. Migrant workers need a just transition to a permanent immigration system in ‘low-skilled’ industries rather than being blamed for government mistakes. MWAC calls on the Federal government to:

  • Process pending and in-country Labour Market Opinions and Work Permit applications for migrant workers; and
  • Develop a just transition mechanism into permanent residency for migrants already in Canada, along with future immigrants in the low-wage, ‘low-skilled’ sectors

“The media is full of stories of migrant worker exploitation, but this moratorium won’t end the abuse it will just make workers more precarious,” insists Senthil Thevar, who came to Canada as a Temporary Foreign Worker in the food sector and was forced to switch jobs because of workers rights violations.

“A moratorium on TFWs is the wrong way to go. Migrant workers in Canada awaiting a decision on their LMOs and work permits will suffer immensely. Those trying to leave abusive employers will be locked in,” says migrant worker advocate Chris Ramsaroop from Justicia for Migrant Workers. “Those who have paid thousands of dollars to recruiters abroad to apply for jobs here risk losing their life savings.  They should not have to pay the price of long-standing flaws in the immigration system. That’s basic fairness.”

Vinay Sharma, Human Rights Director for UNIFOR, Canada’s largest private sector labour union adds, “We can’t just get rid of workers that are already here. Migrant workers in Canada need full immigration status. That’s the critical step. Right now the moratorium should exclude in-country and pending applications.”

“Recent reports expose how provincial and federal laws exclude migrants from basic workplace protections. The solution is to change those two-tiered laws that create conditions of lowered wages and working conditions and that pit migrant workers against unemployed or under-employed citizens,” adds Syed Hussan of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “In the long-run, we need to return to an immigration system that gives access to permanent status to migrants in low-skilled industries.”

“Workers across Canada are facing precarious, low-wage jobs and tough economic times,” added Deena Ladd from the Workers Action Centre. “Let’s not repeat history’s mistakes of blaming immigrants for unemployment in times of economic downturn. We need a decent job agenda that raises standards for all workers, not an arbitrary exclusion of migrant workers.”

Media Contact: Syed Hussan, Coordinator, 416 453 3632, coordinator@migrantworkersalliance.org

Key facts

  • 44,000 migrant workers entered Canada in the food and accommodation sector in 2012.
  • The actual number of migrant workers in Canada in the food sector is not currently known – but all of those workers are now unable to switch jobs within the sector leaving them vulnerable to employer abuse.
  • Canada has no pathway for low-skilled immigrants to come here permanently. A moratorium on the TFWP should only happen after such a pathway has been developed – otherwise it will result in mass deportation.
  • There is no inter-provincial or Canada wide ban on charging migrant workers recruitment fees. Thus recruiters charge migrant workers upwards of two-years’ of salaries in home countries to find jobs in Canada. See http://metcalffoundation.com/publications-resources/view/profiting-from-the-precarious-how-recruitment-practices-exploit-migrant-workers/ for more.

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes Asian Community AIDS Services, Caregivers Action Centre, Justicia for Migrant Workers, Legal Assistance of Windsor, Migrante-Ontario, No One Is Illegal-Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, UNIFOR, United Food and Commercial Workers, and Workers Action Centre. www.migrantworkersalliance.org

 

Recruitment Fees Banned for All Migrant Workers; Comprehensive Changes Still Needed

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – Dec. 4, 2013) – Banning recruitment fees for all migrant workers; removing the arbitrary monetary cap on reclaiming unpaid wages and tougher penalties for employment standards violations means that migrant workers gain a few more protections today, but comprehensive changes are still needed says the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), Canada’s largest migrant worker advocacy coalition.

“After migrant workers exposed abuses by recruiters in 2009, we won protections for live-in caregivers but other migrant workers were unnecessarily excluded,” explains Liza Draman, spokesperson for the Caregivers Action Centre, member organization of MWAC. “Today after four years of migrant workers speaking out about their experiences, recruitment fees have finally been banned for all migrant workers.”

“Unfortunately over two-thirds of the caregivers we surveyed after the law came into effect in 2009 still paid fees,” adds Draman. “That’s because these protections rely on complaints and not proactive enforcement. For there to be meaningful protections, Ontario must follow provinces like Manitoba and implement employer and recruiter registration, licensing and regulation including joint and several financial liability.”

“I paid $1500 in Honduras to come work here in Canada. Here I worked in an unsafe job at a mushroom farm for a year to be able to pay back that debt,” stated Juan Miguel, a temporary foreign worker leader with Justicia for Migrant Workers, member organization of the MWAC. “On top of that, my employer regularly stole my wages and I couldn’t file a claim with the Ministry or I would have been fired and sent back home. I had to wait until I finished my contract, went home and came back with another employer but by then I had exceeded the current 6 month limit on claims. Today’s changes are an important step, but migrant workers need much stronger protections to ensure we have equal rights on the job.”

“Getting rid of the unfair $10,000 limit for employment standards claims and giving workers 2 years to file claims is a significant victory for Ontario workers, especially migrant workers” says Senthil Thevar, a former migrant worker and a spokesperson of MWAC member organization Workers Action Centre who is owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages. “If these laws had existed a few years ago, I could have claimed the thousands of dollars of my unpaid wages immediately rather than being forced to go to court.”

“Migrant workers are not inherently vulnerable, its provincial laws that exclude us from basic protections that make us so,” insists Draman. “Many migrant workers are women and racialized people who are being denied immigration status by the Federal Government. Ontario must step up. We are urging Ontario’s government to sit down with migrant workers and update labour laws and other legislation. It is high time that migrant worker achieve the same protections and benefits as other Ontarians.”

Kyla Hernandez, a Filipino migrant worker who paid $5,000 to work in a vegetable packaging company in Windsor, ON, and spoke out against recruitment fees in 2008 adds, “Today’s labour reforms are a result of the advocacy efforts of migrant workers who took to the streets and held politicians accountable for the 19th century working and living conditions that we face in 21st century Ontario. However this victory is bittersweet. Many of our friends who fought for this have been terminated or deported for standing up for their rights. They will not enjoy the fruits of their labour. We owe it to them to continue the struggle and ensure that we are no longer treated as second class citizens.”

Source: www.migrantworkersalliance.org

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes Alliance of South Asian Aid Prevention, Asian Community Aids Services, Caregivers Action Centre, Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, Justicia for Migrant Workers, KAIROS, Legal Aid Windsor, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto, Unifor, United Food and Commercial Workers and the Workers’ Action Centre.

Media Liaison
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
Syed Hussan, Coordinator
416 453 3632
coordinator@migrantworkersalliance.org

Federal Immigration policy changes lack enough protection for migrants

MEDIA ADVISORY

29 April, 2013 

Media Liaison: Syed Hussan, coordinator@migrantworkersalliance.org416 453 3632

Federal Immigration policy changes lack enough protection for migrants
Consultations with migrant workers necessary for meaningful change

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), a coalition of migrant worker groups and community, faith, and labour allies who have worked directly with migrant workers for decades believes that the minor changes introduced today do not respond to the key concerns migrant workers have identified in the program and are mostly cosmetic.

“We are not stealing jobs, but filling the ones that Canadians do not want due to the long hours, low pay, and live-in requirement,” insists Kay Manuel, a live-in caregiver and member of the Caregivers Action Centre. “The biggest problem with the migrant worker program is that we don’t have the same rights as citizens, the only solution is full immigration status for all workers.”

“We are tired of hearing about laws about how we migrant workers live and work without our voices and concerns ever being heard,” Manuel added.

“Either the Tories want to launch the largest deportation campaign in the history of Canada by shutting out 300,000 migrant workers or they are just posturing in response to public outcry over the failings of the program they created,” adds Chris Ramsaroop, who has worked with agricultural workers in Ontario for the last ten years. “While incremental steps have been taken to eliminate the 15% and 5% rule, and the elimination of the Accelerated LMO process, the core structures of the TFW programs that deny migrant workers the ability to exert their rights have remained intact. Migrant workers will now face greater hardships because of the downloading of LMO costs on to employers which really just means downloading it on to the workers. This adds to the huge sums of money migrant workers already have to pay to get work in Canada.”

“The entire argument about migrant workers taking jobs that unemployed Canadians would otherwise take is about exceptions not the rule,” says Syed Hussan, Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “In the past these low-paying jobs were held by new immigrants not young unemployed Canadians, except they had full status and could bring their families. Now it’s the same demographic working the same jobs, except they have lesser rights. It’s not workers stealing jobs from Canadians, it’s the Conservative government stealing status from immigrants, and separating families.”

Short-term reforms to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program

Here are some immediate steps the Conservative government can take to correct the mistaken policies of past years:

  • Eliminate the 4 and 4 rule under which workers can work in Canada for four years and are banned for the next four
  • End the downloading of costs through LMO user fees on to employers and/or migrant workers.
  • Restore the EI special benefits for TFWP, and ensure full access to employment insurance to all workers that have been employed in Canada.
  • Work with provinces to develop a pan-Canadian framework to register and regulate recruiters and employers to ensure that workers rights are protected, and that recruiter fees are eliminated.

Any further reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program must prioritize consultation and decision making by migrant workers themselves.

Sources:
www.migrantworkersalliance.org

 

Ministry of Labour employees charged fees to work

Ministry of Labour employees charged fees to work

MEDIA ADVISORY
March 20, 2013

Media Contact: Syed Hussan, Coordinator, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, 416 453 3632,coordinator@migrantworkersalliance.org

Ministry of Labour employees charged fees to work

Toronto — Pretend recruiters will be outside Ontario’s Ministry of Labour on Friday (March 22nd) charging employees up to 2 years’ salary or CAD$100,000 to go into their own workplace drawing attention to Ontario labour laws that allow migrant workers to be charged fees to work.

WHAT: Wannabe recruiters charging fees from Ontario Ministry of Labour employees
WHEN: 7: 45am. March 22, 2013, three-year anniversary of Employment Protections for Foreign National Act, EPFNA
WHERE: Ministry of Labour, 400 University Avenue
VISUALS: Recruiters in suits and top hats charging fees from Ministry of Labour employees.

“If recruiters can make a quick buck off migrant workers, we can make a quick buck off the people who allow it,” the organizers of the fee-charging drive said in an email call-out earlier this week.”Recruiters aren’t licensed in Ontario, so anyone can do it! What’s even better is that recruiters can’t be held liable for what happens at work, so if their bosses mistreat them, its no skin off our back.”

Though it’s been three years since EPFNA was implemented, Caregivers continue to be charged fees to work. In a survey by Caregivers Action Centre, two-thirds of live-in caregivers arriving after EPFNA was implemented, paid fees averaging $3725. EPFNA does not include protections for agricultural workers or temporary foreign workers.

“By our guessestimation (its pretty hard to get the facts) at least half off Ontario’s 120,000 migrant workers are paying between $3,000 and $10,000 to recruiters or about two years of their annual salary in their home countries. That could be as high as 600 million dollars a year. Imagine how much more money could be made by the rich if we started charging non-migrant workers too. Its an untapped opportunity and we need to take matters in to our own hands,” the email announcement calling for recruiters continued.

The organizers insisted that they weren’t exploiting the Ministry of Labour employees.”With few real ways to get into Canada permanently, migrants are forced to pay recruiters to come to Canada on a temporary basis. To do so, entire families get into debt. Here, they pay in to E.I., and CPP, but face insurmountable barriers into accessing these benefits. Health and safety protections are non-existent. Documents are seized and bosses are often abusive. All of this is allowed by provincial and federal laws. We won’t be treating the Ministry of Labour employees that badly.”

 

Source
www.migrantworkersalliance.org

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change responds to new immigration levels and mix numbers announcement

TORONTO, Oct. 31, 2012 /CNW/ – Syed Hussan, Coordinator, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change:

“Minister Kenney is giving 10,000 immigrants the chance for permanency residency through the Canadian Experience Class, the problem is there are 300,000 temporary migrant workers coming to Canada each year.  What happens to the other 290,000 immigrants?”

“These new levels of immigration and mix came out of closed door consultations and an unethical online survey process that most organizations were not invited to and most people in Canada did not participate in. We have a government in Ottawa that speaks of family values but is setting up immigrants to be scammed by recruiters, exploited by bad bosses, separated from their loved ones and then sent back just as they’ve begun to lay roots.”

“Most people in Canada believe that the point of immigration is to build a safe, secure community, not bring in temp workers who will be charged high fees, work in dangerous conditions, and be forced to leave when their arbitrary term in Canada is up.”

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change comprises Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention, Asian Community Aids Services, Canadian Auto Workers, Caregivers Action Centre, IAVGO, Justicia for Migrant Workers, KAIROS, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social  Planning Toronto, United Food and Commercial Workers and the Workers’ Action Centre.

SOURCE: The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

For further information:

Syed Hussan
coordinator@migrantworkersalliance.org
(416) 453-3632

720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 223, Toronto, ON  M5S 2T9
www.migrantworkersalliance.org | www.facebook.com/MigrantWorkersAlliance

New report exposes systemic exploitation of migrant workers

MEDIA RELEASE
September 17, 2012

New report exposes systemic exploitation of migrant workers through temporary worker programs

A groundbreaking report released today by the Metcalf Foundation highlights how Canadian immigration and labour policies are generating systemic exploitation of migrant workers.  The report echoes the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change’s (MWAC) call for urgent reform of temporary worker programs to address widespread violations.

Authored by lawyer and professor Fay Faraday, the report “Made in Canada: How the Law Constructs Migrant Workers’ Insecurity” argues that the most critical factor driving workers’ precariousness and exploitation is migrant workers’ temporary immigration status.

“This report reaffirms what migrant workers have been speaking out about for years. Temporary work programs force workers, particularly immigrants of color, into extremely vulnerable positions” said Chris Ramsaroop of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.  “Faraday hits the nail squarely on the head by arguing that migrant workers need immigration status on arrival and access to basic rights and protections.”

Among the recommendations outlined in the report are:

  • All workers of all skill levels should have access to apply to immigrate and arrive with status
  • Legislation must be extended to ensure all migrant workers have effective protection against recruitment fees
  • Ontario should adopt a proactive system of employer registration and recruiter licensing
  • Workers should be provided with open or sector-specific work permits while a legal dispute about their employment is ongoing

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) is a coalition of grassroots migrant worker organizations, community groups, unions, workers and community members that formed in 2009 with the aim of improving working conditions and protections for live-in caregivers, seasonal agricultural workers and other temporary foreign workers.

For more information:

Chris Ramsaroop –  Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
Tel: 647-834-4932

Migrant Workers Alliance denounces Tory policy to pay migrant workers less than Canadian citizens

MEDIA ADVISORY

APRIL 30, 2012


Migrant Workers Alliance denounces Tory policy to pay migrant workers less than Canadian citizens

Toronto – The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, an alliance of migrant workers, labour unions and community organizations denounces the latest Tory “jobs-strategy”, paying migrant workers 15% less than Canadian citizens.

“In April of 2010, Canada was shocked to hear of the death of 11 migrant workers that died in a car crash when a car driver after working an 11 hour day could no longer pay attention to the road and crashed. Migrant workers allies hoped that this tragedy would force the Conservative government to change its path,” says Kay Manuel, a Live-In Caregiver and member of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “Instead, the government has further concertized the race to the bottom by legislating lower wages for migrant workers that are already being exploited by employers and third parties.”

“Paying some people lower wages simply on the basis of their citizenship is fundamentally against human rights and legitimizes further abuse against migrant workers,” says Chris Ramsaroop from Justice for Migrant Workers and a member of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “These strategies result in creating a second class tier of workers with few rights and lower wages and go against the Federal Government’s own 2006 Labour Standards Review that called for equal pay for equal work. Have we not learned from our history lessons of how Chinese workers were treated in this country and the resulting trauma it caused?”

“The Conservative decision to legalize exploitation of migrant workers comes in a week of major changes in immigration policy all calculated to force immigrants in to more and more precarious work,” adds Chris Sorio from Migrante, a member of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “Bill C-31, cuts to refugee healthcare, changes to the spousal sponsorship and parents and grandparents sponsorship are all part of a strategy to keep immigrants in precarious job, with low wages that benefit no one but employers and corporations.”

Formed in April 2009, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (formerly the Coalition for Change) is comprised of various advocacy and community groups, unions, workers and community members, aimed at improving working conditions and fighting for better protections for live-in caregivers, seasonal agricultural workers and other temporary foreign workers.

For more information,

Kay Manuel,  647 8537222
Chris Ramsaroop, 647 834 4932
Chris Sorio,  1 800 559 8092