The report released by the special advisors proposes options for change to laws – some of the options could hurt migrant workers, and some could greatly benefit them.
The deadline for responses is October 14th. Now is the time for many of us to insist that migrant workers in Ontario must be included in all labour laws, and must be protected from reprisals and recruiter fees.
You can also download a comprehensive analysis of the recommendations by Workers Action Centre and PCLS here too.
At the very least, we encourage you to send the special advisors a letter urging them to accept our recommendations. We need to show that there is a large number of groups that want decent work for migrant workers. You can download a sample letter here.
Migrants Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) is organizing Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) visits for constituency week Nov 4th– 10th 2016.
There is an opportunity right now to push the Ontario governments to make meaningful changes that are needed to ensure justice and dignity for migrant workers.
The Changing Workplace Review is making recommendations to ensure that laws about employment and unionization meet the needs of all workers, especially those in the most precarious jobs. We need to make sure that laws are introduced that address the particular barriers to workplace safety and fairness faced by migrant workers, including regulating recruiters and ending the exclusions from minimum work standards and collective bargaining.
Our ask of you:
Visit your local Member of Provincial Parliament!
Register to visit your local MPP below.
We want to make sure that a delegation meets with MPPs across Ontario during the next constituency week: November 4 – 10.
Once you have registered, please contact your MPP and request an appointment on November 4th, or November 7th to the 10th.
We have lots of supports to offer you:
Migrant workers are part of our communities, where they live, work, shop and build relationships.
They are not “foreigners”, they are part of Ontario’s work force, and they are part of our labour market. Their participation in our decent work movement is crucial to our ability to win.
Unfortunately, bad employers and some journalists have pitted migrant workers against unemployed and underemployed Ontario workers. But instead of fighting at the bottom of the barrel for bad jobs, we must unite to increase rights for everyone and improve all our working conditions.
Most migrant workers are in jobs that they have done for generations. Domestic workers have been coming to Canada since the 1800s, and this is the 50th year of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. This isn’t about a short-term labour shortage, migrant work is permanent, and it is time they have the same rights as everyone else.
Migrant workers work some of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in Ontario, with some of the lowest wages and protections.
It’s no accident that many of the industries that are primarily made up of migrant workers are exempted from the Employment Standards Act. As a result, migrant workers are denied basic protections under the law, such as minimum wages, hours of work and more. When one industry is exempted from providing basic minimum standards, other employers want similar exemptions and loopholes.
This helps explain why today less than 25% of all workers are fully protected by the minimum standards in the ESA. This is a vivid example of how an injury to one becomes and injury to all.
The vast majority of Ontarians agree that we need rules that protect us all. We need specific changes in Ontario for migrant workers so that they can raise their voice and get the rights they deserve.
Read in full HERE.
To understand how the gender wage gap affects women migrant workers it is important, first, to understand who women migrant workers are and what are the social dynamics that characterize their precarity in Ontario. Second, it is important to understand the legal frameworks that institutionalize their precarity in ways that very predictably leave them subject to intense gender discrimination, wage theft and other rights violations that deepen the wage gap. Third, it is important to recognize that these dynamics of systemic discrimination demand a response that is equally systemic and multi-dimensional. A wide range of changes need to be made and need to work together to eliminate the precarity that enables and sustains employer behaviour that impoverishes migrant women workers.
In the case of agricultural workers, research and anecdotal evidence from our member organizations has shown that many women participating in the program are single mothers from rural regions who have limited economic opportunities in their home communities. (Encalada Grez, 2011). In the case of domestic workers, research and anecdotal evidence from our member organizations has shown that women are single mothers, or married but in either case are primary caregivers.
Women migrant workers that we work with see labour migration as a survival strategy that provides opportunities to support themselves and their families that are impossible to access in their home contexts which are often characterized by unemployment, underemployment, underdevelopment, civil unrest and/or home governments that have actively adopted labour export policies as their dominant economic strategy. This effectively forces women into migration for work and produces a precarity that means women can be coerced into enduring profoundly discriminatory treatment because of their need to maintain the employee relationship while in Canada. Research found that women in agriculture try to keep their jobs in Canada by increasing their productivity, attempting to outperform men and sometimes acquiescing to exploitative and sub-standard working and living conditions (Encalada Grez, 2011).
While in Canada, employers exert an astonishing intrusive degree of surveillance and supervision over women migrant workers’ non-working time. This surveillance and supervision exceeds even that imposed on male migrant workers and includes imposing stricter curfews, asserting greater control over their living conditions, and controlling social interactions. Romantic relationships are sometimes explicitly prohibited via contracts, and often implicitly prohibited. Pregnancy may result in termination or preclude a worker from being invited back in to the program. Harassment and violence by male co-workers and male employers often goes unreported. Harassment and violence as a result of the joint nexus of gender, racialization, and lack of permanent immigration status in towns, cities and communities where migrant workers are is also largely unreported.
The cumulative effects of these constraints gravely impacts women migrant workers wages that are often paid below or at minimum wage, lower than both their male counterparts and Canadian citizens. As the Closing the Gender Wage Gap: A Background Paper notes, racialized women face a gender wage gap of 36.8%. Additionally, we are aware that migrant workers, most of whom are restricted to working in low-waged industries or unable to assert their rights as a result of being undocumented, earn the absolute least amount of wages. While we have not been able to do a comprehensive analysis of the wages of migrant workers vis-à-vis the broader workforce, it is certain that racialized women with temporary or no immigration status earn even less than racialized women in general.
When looking at the legal frameworks, it is clear that the gender wage gap for women migrant workers is driven by a number of systemic dynamics that subject women migrant workers to low pay and that subject them to widespread practices of wage theft and other violations of workplace rights which deepen their wage disparity and isolation in the labour market.
Read in full HERE.
Across Ontario migrant worker allies issued recommendations to the Special Advisors of the Changing Workplaces Review calling for swift reforms to the Employment Standards Act and the Ontario Labour Relations Act.
Download and read them here.
The Ontario government is reviewing labour laws in the province. Over the summer and fall of 2015, the public is invited to make recommendations to improve these laws. It’s important that these changes support all workers, including migrant workers.
This is a critical moment to build awareness about migrant worker concerns. We know that our friends and neighbours in the Temporary Foreign Workers, Seasonal Agricultural Workers and Caregivers Programs have fewer rights and live in greater fear than other Ontarians. Now we need to make sure that everyone else in the province knows it too.
We have created a simple two page flyer that you can distribute at events, get in to the hands of labour allies, and place prominently at your office. You can download it directly here:
Submission by Migrant Workers Alliance for Change to Standing Committee on Justice Policy of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
April 16, 2015
A comprehensive recruiter regulation system in Ontario requires legislation that is designed with a view to ending the practice of migrant workers paying fees to work in Ontario. Specific measures to this end include:
Click HERE to read our full submissions.
Marites Angana died on December 02, 2014. As a domestic worker, she was excluded from the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which means that she did not have the same rights to refuse work, and no Ministry of Labour investigation will take place in to her death. Marites death is not an anomaly. Migrant workers arrive in Ontario having passed multiple health checks, and many return home sick, and injured, sometimes dead. Just last week, the Toronto Star did an in-depth story on Winston Morrisson who worked in Canada as a Seasonal Agricultural Worker. He was sent home with a leg injury, and lack of adequate health care supports means that he was forced to have his leg amputated.
It is time for such tragedies to end. Its time that migrant workers work in healthy jobs, not in those that make them sick. With that in mind, I am outlining some key issues that migrant workers face in accessing health care, and an initial set of recommendations for legislative and regulatory reform. I have focused on some key asks, but am happy to provide supporting research, documentation and worker information that led to the development of these.
The four three areas in reference to health care are:
Click HERE to download the MWAC’s letter to the Ontario Premier’s Office.