Migrant workers face systemic exploitation and insecurity according to a new report released by the Metcalf Foundation today.
The report entitled, Made in Canada: How the Law Constructs Migrant Workers’ Insecurity, illustrates how federal immigration laws and provincial employment laws intersect to create precarious working conditions and exploitation for migrant workers. Author Fay Faraday argues: “the factor that most strongly drives migrant workers’ insecurity in Canada is their temporary immigration status.”
Workers’ stories in the report highlight violations of employment standards and other labour laws. Among the workers who speak out are two Workers’ Action Centre members.
Lilliane describes working long hours for less than minimum wage: “I came to Canada to work and I was working hard but I wasn’t getting paid. I was paid $100 in cash per month even though my contract said I was to be paid much more.” Senthil writes: “I had no vacation and no holidays, I didn’t even get time off to go to the doctor. I was promised $15 per hour but I was getting less than minimum wage. I was only paid $8 per hour.”
Both Lilliane and Senthil have initiated legal action to recover their unpaid wages and are speaking out to ensure other workers do not face the same violations they did. However, the report argues until fundamental changes to temporary worker programs are made, migrant workers will continue to face exploitation and abuse.
The report states that all workers must be able to apply to immigrate and to arrive with full status as permanent residents. It urges government to amend provincial legislation to ensure that migrant workers have the right to unionize and bargain collectively. The report also calls for changes to the Employment Standards Act, echoing many of the Workers’ Action Centre’s policy recommendations to address wage theft, including:
- legislative change to ensure anonymous and third-party complaints
- extending protection against recruitment fees to all migrant workers
- adopting a proactive system of employer registration and recruiter licensing based on the best practices in Manitoba’s Worker Recruitment and Protection Act
- resources be devoted to proactive enforcement in sectors and workplaces employing migrant workers in collaboration with community organizations
- open or sector-specific work permits for migrant workers while a legal dispute about their employment is ongoing
Watch Lilliane’s story here .
Newspaper coverage on the report release:Abuse of migrant workers ‘endemic’ in Canada, new study says Sept. 17, 2012, Toronto Star Ontario Migrant Workers Face Systemic Exploitation, Metcalf Foundation Study Says Sept. 17, 2012, Huffington Post