Migrant Worker Voices Need to be Heard at Committee Hearings: Resources to Make a Difference
Starting this week, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs will be hearing oral presentations on the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (or Bill 148). It is vital for migrant workers, advocates and allies to vocalize how this bill will impact migrant workers in Ontario. If you have signed up to depute, please read our blog and our written submission for facts and analysis about the impacts of the changes for migrant workers.
The importance of this bill for migrant workers is:
- an increase to the minimum wage could lift migrant workers out of poverty;
- ten personal emergency leaves (two paid) will mean that migrant workers can take sick days or emergency leaves without fear of losing their jobs;
- equal pay for equal work (which will benefit seasonal workers).
While more changes are always needed to protect migrant workers around better enforcement, their ability to collectively bargain and more paid emergency leaves, we can support the immediate progressive changes and still mobilize to improve them. But we also need to push back against the backlash, which has been intensifying.
What Can I Do?
Write a Letter to the Editor
Its important for everyday people to give their opinion on the upcoming changes. Short, personal stories often make the best impact. You can respond to a story directly or give an anecdote to why support the changes to Bill 148. Here is an example if you need some inspiration:
Your latest story on the impacts of raising the minimum wage neglects one important sector of workers. These workers are often invisible yet they contribute significantly to our economy. They might be harvesting our food or caring for our children and elderly. This work is vital to the functioning of our society, yet these workers are some of the lowest paid workers in Ontario. Not only do they perform hard work for low wages, but their immigration status puts them in positions of exploitation and abuse. I am speaking of the almost 200,000 temporary foreign workers that work and live in Ontario.
Many commentators are talking about how the changes of the bill will help precarious workers. This is absolutely true for migrant workers. The changes will help a sector of workers that are mostly people of colour trying to lift their families out of poverty. The proposed changes would not only help with wages, but also protect migrant workers if they are sick or need to leave for an emergency. While the bill doesn’t solve everything, it’s a step in the right direction to raise the dignity and working conditions of the people who grow our food and care for our children and elderly.
Migrant workers are important people in our community – their work sustains our health with the produce we consume. They provide care for people most needing care in our society. By supporting the changes to the bill (and fighting for more), it will create more stability and security for the most marginalized in our workforce.
Contact your MPP
Writing or calling your MPP is the best way for them to hear from their constituents. Write or call your MPP to ensure they support the changes and even push them to fight for improvements.
Here are some ideas of what you could say to your MPP:
Hi, my name is [name is optional] ___________________________and I live in your riding of _______________________________.
I am calling because I am excited about the changes to Ontario’s labour laws announced by Premier Kathleen Wynne, in particular the $15 Minimum Wage, the Personal Emergency Leave, and equal pay for equal work
I work with migrant workers who are some of the most precarious workers in this labour market, and know very well that migrant workers need specific protections. While we are optimistic, we also urge you to consider that there is room to extend protections to all workers, including migrant workers. We hope that you will help us by proposing these changes to any upcoming legislation.
- $15 Minimum wage for ALL. That means no exemptions from minimum wages for agricultural workers or anyone else.
- More Paid Personal Emergency Leave Days. Many migrant workers are at risk of losing their job if they are sick or need to attend to a personal/family matter at home. While having 2 personal emergency leave days is a good start, having seven will help the most precarious workers whose family live outside of Canada.
- Enforcement. We need better, more proactive enforcement when employers break the law. We need inspections of the homes that caregivers live and work in. We need a faster process for resolving Employment Standards Act anti-reprisal claims when workers are at risk of being sent back home, and temporary permits while their claims are being processed.
Take to social media
Use the hashtags #MakeItRight, ##15andFairness and ##ONPoli on Twitter and Facebook. Don’t forget to mention any MPPs you want to direct your Tweet.
For more information on organizing around the hearings and writing a submission, please check out the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign.