There hasn’t been a comprehensive change of labour laws in Ontario in over thirty years. So we have a once in a generation opportunity to improve rights for migrant workers.
According to the interim report just released by the Ontario government’s special advisors the cumulative costs of labour law exemptions and special rules for minimum wage, overtime pay, holiday pay, and vacation pay are associated with a potential loss of approximately $45 million to Ontario employees each week.
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.
To help you do so, we have prepared a template document that you can use to draft your own recommendations. Click here to download.
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.
Here are some of the positive options, the Special Advisors have laid out that we need to make sure end up in the final recommendation, and eventually become law:
- Just cause protection: We can ensure that migrant workers aren’t fired without cause.
- Migrant worker specific anti-reprisal protections: Employers can repatriate (deport) migrant workers if they complain. Only 22% of reprisals complaints go through, but the percentage for migrant workers is far lower, we can change that.
- Proactive enforcement measures: 61% of migrant worker employers inspected in the most recent Ontario Minister of Labour blitz (June, 2016) were found to be breaking labour laws. This while Caregiver employers were not inspected at all. We can expand proactive enforcement measures.
- Give Agriculture workers and Caregivers collective bargaining rights
- At the same time, we will continue to raise our voice to call for an end to all exclusions and ask for comprehensive recruiter regulations.
Now is the time.
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:
- MPP Lobby kits: http://www.migrantworkersalliance.org/meet-your-mpp/
- An in-depth training 2pm – 4pm, Monday, October 24th to help you with how to organize the meeting, who should attend and what to say. We will come right to your computer! Register below.
- Social media tips and tools
- Telephone and email support
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.
The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change has identified the following needed changes to Ontario’s labour laws
- Migrant workers deserve the same rights as everyone else. There should be no special rules and exemptions by occupation.
- Labour laws must be proactively enforced and community members must be able to complain about bad bosses.
- Migrant workers need special anti-reprisal protections including their staying in the country while their complaints are being processed.
- Agriculture workers and Caregivers must be able to unionize and bargain collectively and sectorally.
- There should be no fees for work. Recruiters need to be licenced and migrant worker employers registered. These registries need to be public. Employers and recruiters need to be jointly financially liable for all fees paid to work by migrant workers. Joint liability must include any fees paid at any point in recruitment process.
Here is a step-by-step guide to meeting with you MPP.
Memo on Migrant workers and Ontario’s labour laws 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.
- Submissions from the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change HERE
- Submissions from Justice for Migrant Workers HERE
- Submissions from the Caregivers Action Centre HERE
- Submissions from Fuerza Puwersa HERE
- Submissions from Toronto Workers Health and Safety Legal Clinic HERE
- Submissions from Dr. Jenna Hennebry, Dr. Janet McLaughlin and Dr. Kerry Preibisch HERE
- Submissions from Erinn Burke, Northumberland County 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: