The Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 (Bill 18)

The Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 (Bill 18)

Thanks to pressure from workers and the public, the Ontario government has re-introduced legislation that will make some improvements to the working conditions of workers including migrant workers. Bill 18 will ban recruitment fees for all migrant workers; remove the arbitrary monetary cap on reclaiming unpaid wages and tougher penalties for employment standards violations. These are good steps but comprehensive changes are still needed. Download our Backgrounder on Bill 18.

Migrant Workers and Bill 18

Migrant workers are often forced to pay recruiters thousands of dollars in fees, just to find a job. Many workers have little choice but to borrow the money, which can mean a debt burden on workers and their families, making them even more vulnerable to exploitation. Bill 18 extends the current law that bans recruitment fees for live-in caregivers to all migrant workers under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program. While this provision is a step forward, it also relies on a complaints-based model for law enforcement, a model that has been proven to be ineffective for caregivers. Bill 18 still allows employers to recover certain costs (to be defined by government) from migrant workers, which could undermine the very protections Bill 18 is supposed to create. No worker should have to pay to work. Bill 18 should be strengthened by adopting and improving on best practices from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

Bill 18 will extend the time period in which workers can file claims against employers for unpaid wages, from six months to two years. The Bill also allows workers to claim up to two years worth of unpaid wages (formerly it was only six months) and removes the $10,000 limit on the amount of unpaid wages workers can claim. There would be no limit under this law. These measures represent a real victory for workers. However, many migrant workers are tied to their employers for up to 4 years and are unable to assert their rights during this period.

We want Bill 18 amended so that it:

  • Eliminates any provision or potential provision under which employers “recover” recruitment or employment costs from migrant workers;
  • Gives migrant workers at least five years to file complaints so that they can seek justice after their contracts have finished;
  • Makes the government responsible for proactively enforcing the law and eliminates the self-reporting provisions of the Bill;
  • Allows third-party complaints and fast-track investigations where reprisals are alleged;
  • Extends joint responsibility to both employers and recruiters for any exploitative, migrant worker recruitment practice;
  • Licenses recruiters and registers employers and requires recruiters to provide a guaranteed security deposit from which migrant workers can be compensated when recruiters violate laws.

Get in touch with us. Email coordinator@migrantworkersalliance.org so that we can get these important amendments made.

 

What’s in Bill 146

What's in Bill 146

Bill 146 introduces many changes that Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and Workers Action Centre members and supporters across the province have been calling for.  If passed the new legislation would:

  1. Ban recruitment fees for all migrant workers
  2. Give workers 2 years to claim unpaid wages
  3. Get rid of the unfair $10,000 limit on the unpaid wages that can be claimed
  4. Make temp agencies and client companies jointly liable for ESA violations
  5. End WSIB rating system loopholes that provided an incentive for companies to use temp agencies

The Ministry of Labour also announced that they will fulfill their 2008 commitment to $10 million for proactive employment standards enforcement. The government pledged to bring in more penalties for employers who violate the law and indicated the need to continue to make further changes to address precarious employment.

Read MWAC Migrant worker members responses here.

Click here to download our analysis of Bill 146 and recommendations to strengthen it.

Migrant Workers respond to proposed Ontario law

Banning recruitment fees for all migrant workers; removing the arbitrary monetary cap on reclaiming unpaid wages and tougher penalties for employment standards violations announced today 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.

Changes were also announced today for other workers in precarious jobs, see our member organization Workers Action Centre’s update on that here.

“After migrant workers exposed abuses by recruiters in 2009, we won protections for live-in caregivers but other migrant workers were unnecessarily excluded. 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. 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.

Migrant workers are not inherently vulnerable, its provincial laws that exclude us from basic protections that make us so. 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.

Liza Draman, Caregivers Action Centre

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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

Photos from the October 12th Feast for Fairness

Farming for Fair Wages

Farming for Fair Wages

farming for fair wages

Feast for Fairness

Join the event on facebook

Join us on Saturday October 12th at 1030, as the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage, in collaboration with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, hosts a Feast for Fairness at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market (Meet at the corner of Front St. E and Jarvis. (1 block south of King St. E) Toronto), calling for an increase in minimum wage and the inclusion of migrant workers into minimum wage laws.

Look who’s putting food on our table
This Thanksgiving weekend, many low-wage workers are resorting to food banks in order to get by; and restaurant workers continue to see their wages stagnate. Many migrant workers are excluded from minimum wage laws altogether.

Join us as we demand an immediate increase to the minimum wage to $14 and ending minimum wage exemptions for all workers!
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Migrant Workers Deserve Minimum Wage

Migrant Workers Deserve Minimum Wage

IMG_20130906_115635 (1)Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and our member organizations Justice for Migrant Workers, Migrante Ontario, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto, Unifor and Workers Action Centre presented to the Ontario Minimum Wage Panel on Friday, September 6th.

We at MWAC fully support calls to increase minimum wage to $14/hour and to be tied to the rate of inflation. At $10.25, the minimum wage forces workers below the poverty line. We support the position of the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage that the minimum wage should be set 10% above the poverty line, using the Low Income Measure and assuming a 35-hour work week. Furthermore, the minimum wage should be updated every year with the cost of living.

Migrant workers live and work in our communities. A raise in the minimum wage will support the local businesses and communities where they live.  However, under current minimum wage laws, many migrant workers are unable to access minimum wage like their colleagues and neighbours. In our presentation, we clarified that:

(1) Ontarians in the agriculture industry including those deemed migrant workers are excluded from Ontario’s minimum wage laws. This is fundamentally unfair and unjust. All minimum wage exemptions in the Employment Standards Act must be removed.
(2) Many Ontarians that are denied full immigration status by the federal government face legal obstacles that make it impossible for them to assert their right to minimum wage. In our experience, a great number of workers are being denied minimum wage or overtime pay. Specific anti-reprisal laws must be developed and these legal obstacles removed.
(3) Ontario currently does not track employers and recruiter of Ontarians deemed migrant workers and therefore has little enforcement capacity. All employers and recruiters in Ontario must be registered, must be forced to put up lines of credit, and must be held jointly and severally liable for any violations.

Read our full oral submission here.

 

Equal Pay for Equal Work! Call for Action. Rally against migrant worker wage cuts!

The Conservative government has given employers in Canada more rein to exploit migrants. Employers can now pay migrant workers 15% below the average wage. This is an outrage! To discriminate on wages simply on the basis of nationality is unfair. Considering that most migrant workers are people of colour, this wage cut is simply racist.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, a community-labour alliance of over 40 organizations, will be demonstrating at MP Joe Oliver (Cabinet Minister for Toronto)’s office on May 24th.

11am, May 24, 2012
Outside MP Joe Oliver’s Office
511 Lawrence Avenue West

We are also calling for pickets and demonstrations at Conservative MP offices across Ontario on Thursday, May 24, 2012. If you can organize an action at ANY Tory MP office, please get in touch. Here are some locations we have identified where the Conservatives are susceptible to pressure.

MP Jay Aspin: Nipissing-Timiskaming (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 0.04%)
MP Ted Opitz: Etobicoke Centre (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 0.05%)
MP Bal Gosal: Bramalea-Gore-Malton (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 0.93%)
MP Wladyslaw Lizon: Mississauga East –Cooksville (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 1.44%)
MP Corneliu Chisu: Pickering-Scarborough East (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 2.52%)
MP Peter Braid: Kitchener (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 3.24%)
MP Chris Alexander: Ajax-Pickering (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 5.74%)
MP Kyle Seeback: Brampton West (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 9.78%)
MP Diane Finley: Haldimand-Norfolk (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development)

Can you help organize an action in your community either at these offices or another one? If so, please email mwalliance4change@gmail.com by Monday, May 21, 2012. We can provide call-outs, draft press releases as well as support for visuals.

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change’s demands:
– A RIGHT TO LANDING STATUS be granted upon arrival for migrant workers. They must not be tied to one employer, be required to live in their employer’s home, or be subject to further medical examination;
– A RIGHT TO EQUAL ACCESS for all social programs, including Employment Insurance, health care, settlement services, social services and Workers’ Compensation;
– A RIGHT TO A FAIR APPEAL PROCESS for migrant workers prior to a pre-removal order, and a stop to deportations until this process is in place;
– A RIGHT TO FULL PROTECTION UNDER THE PROVINCIAL EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS ACT AND REGULATIONS currently enjoyed by Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents, including NO FEES for any work placement.
– Immediately implement a NATIONAL REGULARIZATION PROGRAM granting permanent immigration status for all non-residents living in Canada.

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