The Right to Unionize for Migrant Workers

The Right to Unionize for Migrant Workers

 

Please read the joint submission by Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and Caregivers Action Centre entitled

Stronger Together:

Delivering on the Constitutionally Protected Right to Unionize for Migrant Workers

This submission was written by Fay Faraday, a member of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and part of the Equal Pay Coalition.

You can download and read the submission here.

Migrant workers earn low wages and have work permits tied to one employer. This creates a context of rampant abuse and exploitation. Yet they are legally denied the right to unionize and collectively bargain.

Despite the recommendations of the Changes Workplaces Review, the current proposals in Bill 148 do not address or correct the the denial of these fundamental rights to migrant workers.

We are demanding that the exclusion domestic workers, agricultural workers and horticultural workers from the Labour Relations Act must be repealed. We also demand that the Labour Relations Action be reformed to enable broader based bargaining where migrant workers are employed.

For more information about this submission, contact info@migrantworkersalliance.org.

Ensuring Migrant Worker Fairness

Ensuring Migrant Worker Fairness

migrant-work-is-precarious-work_sm2There 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.

Policy Brief: Submission from CMWRC & MWAC to HUMA

Policy Brief: Submission from CMWRC & MWAC to HUMA

Submission to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

PLEASE DOWNLOAD HERE

These submissions are being jointly made by Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada (CMWRC) and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC). CMWRC is the representative body of migrant workers in the country. Our members include Cooper Institute in Prince Edward Island, Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization (CCESO), Migrant Worker Solidarity Network in Manitoba, Migrante Canada, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change in Ontario, Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture in Okanagan Valley, Temporary Foreign Workers Association in Quebec, Temporary Foreign Workers Coalition in Alberta, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregiver Rights in Vancouver and West Coast Domestic Workers Association in Vancouver.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) includes Alliance of South Asian Aid Prevention, Asian Community Aids Services, Caregivers Action Centre, Fuerza Puwersa, Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, 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, Workers’ Action Centre and Workers United.

These recommendations have been endorsed by AIDS Committee of Durham Region, Jesuit Refugee Service, Retail Action Network BC, Refugees Welcome Fredericton, SAME Brock Chapter, MigrantWorkersRights Canada, BC Employment Standards Coalition, Migrante BC, PINAY Quebec, People’s Health Movement Canada/Mouvement populaire pour la santé au Canada, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, Migrant Worker Health Project (International Migration Research Centre), Gabriella Ontario, AAFQ (association des aides familiales du Québec/Caregivers Association of Quebec) and Inter Pares.

Submissions to Gender Wage Gap Strategy Committee

Submissions to Gender Wage Gap Strategy Committee

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.

MWAC Response to Ontario Immigration Act proposed regulations

MWAC Response to Ontario Immigration Act proposed regulations

Proposed Ontario Immigration Act regulations set out prescribed criteria for categories of individuals who may be eligible to receive a certificate of nomination for permanent residence. These regulation exclude migrant workers in occupations deemed low-skilled from access to Permanent Residency. MWAC believes that the Ontario Immigration Act, and future Canada-Ontario Immigration Act regulations must include access to permanent residency for migrant workers. This step should be taken in parallel to ensuring permanent resident immigration status upon arrival for migrant workers.

Read in full HERE

Migrant worker policy submissions to the Changing Workplace Review

Migrant worker policy submissions to the Changing Workplace Review

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

Ontario Immigration Act – Submission to Standing Comittee

Ontario Immigration Act - Submission to Standing Comittee

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:

  1. Require compulsory licensing of all recruiters working in Ontario with a financial bond: Currently anyone can recruit migrant workers in Canada or abroad, charge them large fees, and either put them in contact with a Canadian employer or walk away without actually providing the job they promised. To counter the abuses inherent in this system, all recruiters in Ontario must be licensed, the list of licensed recruiters should be easily accessible online to migrant workers around the world, and the licensing should include a financial bond.
  2. Require compulsory registration of all migrant worker employers in Ontario: Employers choose which recruiters they work with, and are often aware of the fees being paid by migrant workers overseas or in Ontario. As such, as effective recruitment regulation process requires knowing which employers hire migrant workers in the province. Currently, Ontario depends on the federal government’s willingness to share information about employers that hire migrant workers. A compulsory and robust employer registration system is required for effective recruiter regulation.
  3. Hold recruiters and employers jointly financially liable for violating labour protections: This practice is already the law in Manitoba and other provinces and ensures that responsibility for violations is not passed to recruiters abroad. Instead, employers should be held accountable for working with appropriate recruiters (who should be licensed in Ontario) to ensure that migrant workers do not face abuse. This practice ensures predictability and certainty for employers, recruiters and migrant workers.

Click HERE to read our full submissions.

Healthcare for Migrant Workers

Healthcare for Migrant Workers

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:

  1. Occupational Health and Safety Act
  2. Access to Health Services
  3. Workplace Safety Insurance Board
  4. Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.

Click HERE to download the MWAC’s letter to the Ontario Premier’s Office.

MWAC Submissions on regulatory proposals to enhance the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and International Mobility Program compliance framework.

MWAC Submissions on regulatory proposals to enhance the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and International Mobility Program compliance framework.

The proposed compliance framework may be able to lead to real implementation steps that ensure the principle of equal protections for migrant workers is met. However, three critical changes are needed to ensure that these regulations do not end up doing the opposite:

1. The compliance mechanisms and sanctions must not in any way punish workers for their employers’ abuse. The regulatory mechanism should include open work permits, and access to permanent residency for migrant workers. Failure to do so would make these regulations extremely punitive for migrant workers.

2. There should be no exceptions to workplaces that are being inspected or sanctioned. All migrant worker employers, that is those who are part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, Live-In Caregiver Program and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, should be equally and comprehensively assessed for abuse.

3. These regulations will result in a convergence, and possible confusion between provincial and federal jurisdictions. MOUs on information sharing, and specific protocols to ensure that migrant workers are able to gain lost wages, or have access to other entitlements under provincial jurisdiction, must be developed.

For our full submissions, click HERE.

Law Commission Urges Action

Today’s launch of the LCO commission report highlights the necessity for the government of Ontario to implement proactive steps to protect the over 60,000 temporary foreign workers in Ontario.The report echoes calls from the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change to ban recruitment and placement fees for all temporary foreign workers. The banning of fees is the first step in regulating the run-away recruiter industry that is exploiting thousands of workers in the province. More recommendations from Metcalf Foundation here.

The commission heard first hand from migrant worked who demand an end to recruitment fees and protection from reprisals. It is imperative that the province takes the necessary steps to protect the provinces most vulnerable workers. We owe it to all the migrant workers who build our communities, put food on our tables and take care of our loved ones.