Migrant Worker Policy Priorities – May 2019

DOWNLOAD OUR POLICY POSITION HERE.

There are a number of issues of key concern to migrant workers and their support organizations across Canada at this moment. These include:

  1. Employment and Social Development Canada proposals for an occupation specific work permit;
  2. Interim Pathway for Caregivers, set to expire on June 4th, 2019;
  3. Proposal for the creation of permanent residency pilot program for non-seasonal agricultural workers and a permanent residency program for Caregivers; and
  4. Regulations for the creation of an Open Work Permit Program for temporary foreign workers at risk of abuse.

For migrant workers at the receiving end of these programs and proposals, these issues are interconnected. To engage in separate consultations on each matter, and only speak to a part of an issue rather than the whole further fragments the ability of migrant workers to give meaningful input. For these reasons, we are submitting one document that addresses all four issues.

As elaborated below, migrant workers in Canada continue to demand:

  1. Permanent resident status on arrival for all migrant workers in Canada through the creation of a Federal Workers Program for care workers, and in consultation with migrant workers in other streams;
  2. In the interim, creation of open or occupation specific work permits that are not reliant on employers that would allow workers to move freely between jobs and workplaces and work for any employer in a sector;
  3. The extension and then grandparenting of the Interim Pathway for care workers to ensure that no worker is left behind;
  4. Immediate implementation of an Open Work Permit Program for workers facing risk of abuse or being abused.

In this policy memo, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*, Association for the Rights of Household & Farm Workers (ARHW)- Montreal, Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization (CCESO) – Toronto, Caregivers Action Centre – Toronto, Cooper Institute – PEI, FCJ Refugee Centre – Toronto, Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) Montreal, Income Security Advocacy Centre – Toronto, Migrant Worker Solidarity Network – Manitoba, Migrant Workers Centre (BC), Migrante Alberta, Migrante BC, Migrante Canada, Migrante Manitoba, Migrante Ontario, Migrante Ottawa, Migrante Quebec, Migrants Resource Centre Canada – Toronto, PINAY – Quebec, RAMA – Okanagan, Sanctuary Health – Vancouver and Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR) propose a joint position on all these matters.

* The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes individuals as well as Asian Community Aids Services, Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support), Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization, Caregivers Action Centre, Durham Region Migrant Solidarity Network, FCJ Refugee House, GABRIELA Ontario, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, Income Security Advocacy Centre, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Northumberland Community Legal Centre, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, OHIP For All, PCLS Community Legal Clinic, SALCO Community Legal Clinic, Students Against Migrant Exploitation, UFCW, UNIFOR, Workers Action Centre and Workers United.  

DOWNLOAD OUR POLICY POSITION HERE. 

Time to respond: Proposed Open Work Permits for Workers Facing Abuse or Risk of Abuse

On Friday, December 15th, the Federal Government proposed in the Canada Gazette the creation of an Open Work Permit Program for Workers Facing Abuse or Risk of Abuse. This Open Permit is in line with our proposed permits and are a step in the right direction. Click here to see our original submissions calling for this permit in December 2017.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change has made specific submissions on ways to ensure that the proposed Open Work Permits actually ensure migrant worker protections – Read them here

The rproposed egulatory changes are promising in terms of interim protections for migrant workers as we continue our call for a system of permanent resident status on landing for low-waged migrants. However, they can and must be strengthened. Current gaps include:

  • Wide range of discretionary powers for the officers to define abuse, determine the length of permits or to issue the permit at all, and lack of a robust appeals process to maintain a check on these powers;
  • Lack of specific provisions for Care Workers who need to complete 24 months of service within 48 months and need the work experience on these permits to be counted; and lack of protections from blacklisting for Seasonal Agricultural Workers;
  • Lack of guaranteed access to healthcare; and
  • Lack of specific investigative mechanisms to ensure workers are compensated for harms.

Take Action Now! Send a letter to the Federal Government right now calling for changes. Use this template letter to draft your own submissions Please share this with your colleagues.

Policy Submission: Permanent Status on Landing – Real reform for Caregivers

DOWNLOAD THE FULL JOINT SUBMISSIONS
DOWNLOAD A SAMPLE LETTER, ADD YOUR NAME / ORGANIZATION AND EMAIL IT IN

A century of experience has demonstrated that caregiving labour is an ongoing permanent need in the economy. More than 60 years of caregivers’ experience with temporary labour migration to Canada has demonstrated consistent, well-documented, widespread problems of exploitation and abuse by employers and recruiters. Repeated reviews by Parliamentary Committees (most recently the 2016 HUMA Committee hearings), as well as academic and community-based research have demonstrated that this exploitation is rooted in the vulnerability that is created by the terms of Canada’s temporary labour migration program itself.

In addition, caregivers over the past four decades of the program have suffered from the ‘two-step’ immigration system that requires them to finish their employment contracts before being allowed to apply for permanent residency. This has led to profoundly damaging and lasting impacts on the physical and mental health of caregivers and their families. Years of family separation can cause intergenerational conflicts between caregivers and their children as well as family breakdown.

The time has come to make real, meaningful reforms that ensure decent work and security in this core area of the labour market. Caregivers are united in demanding:

  1.  A comprehensive and transparent consultation process to reform the Caregiver Program.
  2.  A new Federal Workers Program – Caregiver Stream that provides caregivers with permanent status on entry and family unity.
  3. Reforms to protect caregivers who are already in Canada and in the backlog to ensure that no one is left behind.

These interim reforms will involve allowing caregivers to come to Canada with their families; eliminating the backlog in caregivers’ permanent residency applications; removing the ‘excessive demand’ provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA); regularizing the status of caregivers who have become undocumented; developing immigration criteria that are consistent with what is needed to do the job; and putting an end to the second medical and to excessive educational and language requirements re-introduced in 2014. We particularly urge the creation of an open work permit program as an interim measure.

What’s happening with the Caregiver Program?

What's happening with the Caregiver Program?

Download this flyer, and share with other Caregivers.

The current “Pathways” Caregiver Program was created in November 2014 for five years. It is is set to expire on November 29, 2019. Unless the program changes – no applications for permanent residency will be received after November 29, 2019. 

This is a crisis AND and an opportunity.

The government has promised to review the Caregiver program and make changes before November 29, 2019. If we do nothing – then the Caregiver program could disappear. But if we work together – we may be able to create a better program.

Caregivers: Don’t be afraid. You deserve to be treated with dignity! You deserve permanent resident status!

Right now we need to bring together issues of low-wages, employer abuse, tied work permits, permanent residency backlog and family reunification. We want a new program with permanent status for all migrant workers.

We need to tell the government that we want a new program that gives us permanent status, the ability to move between jobs, and to be reunited with our families. Caregiving is real work, it’s useful, it’s important and Caregivers deserve real worker rights.

Educate yourself on what the government is planning, and get in touch with your local Caregiver organizations to talk about what a new Caregiver program should look like.

Download this flyer, and share with other Caregivers.

Policy Submission: Labour exemptions for Domestic Workers, Homemakers and Residential Care Workers

Policy Submission: Labour exemptions for Domestic Workers, Homemakers and Residential Care Workers

In this phase of Ontario’s exemption review, only eight occupations are being considered: architects, homemakers, domestic workers, residential care workers, IT professionals, managers and supervisors, pharmacists, and superintendents. Migrant Workers Alliance for Change endorses the submissions made by the Workers’ Action Centre and Parkdale Community Legal Services. These submissions will focus on Domestic Workers, Homemakers and Residential Care Workers, as these sectors impact most upon migrant worker labour.

Domestic Workers do the critical work of caring for children, persons with disabilities and older persons. The caregiving sector is reliant on the work of migrant workers, primarily women, who risk their jobs and their hopes of permanent residence in Canada if they complain about violations of their rights. This workforce is overwhelmingly female, racialized, poorly paid and highly precarious. Domestic workers include people with and without regularized immigration status and migrant workers employed through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The caregiving sector is rife with abuses ranging from unpaid overtime to sexual abuse and racial discrimination. Often working alone in their employer’s home, caregivers need robust employment standards protections, support for collective action to improve their conditions of work, and effective rights enforcement. Ontario’s employment and labour law regimes currently accomplish none of these things.

Domestic Workers are subject to a special minimum wage rule that allows employers to deduct room and board from wages for the purposes of determining whether minimum wage has been paid. This special minimum wage rule is inconsistent with the federal Caregiver Program policies that prohibit employers from charging room and board to live-in caregivers.

When it comes to protections for unionization, Domestic Workers working in private homes are explicitly excluded from the Labour Relations Act and collective bargaining units made up of one person are not permitted.

Caregiver work is in practice very fluid, with movement between residential care homes and live-in caregiving situations. Some are recruited into other types of care work when they experience problems in the federal Caregiver Program, for example when they fall out of status for leaving an abusive workplace and must find a way to support themselves and their families. Because of this fluidity, migrant caregivers are also impacted by two other sectors under review: homemakers and residential care workers.

Caregivers who are considered “homemakers” are exempt from a litany of employment standards including daily and weekly hours of work limits, overtime, daily rest periods, eating periods and time off between shifts or work weeks. They are entitled to wages to a maximum of 12 hours per day of pay, even when they work more. A residential care worker, who cares for children or disabled persons in family-type residential dwellings, does not enjoy minimum protections for hours of work and eating periods (daily and weekly limits on hours of work, mandatory rest periods and eating periods), overtime, and the right to payment for hours worked after 12 hours per day.

None of these exemptions can be justified and we urge Ontario to eliminate them. Instead, Ontario must take the necessary steps to ensure that caregiving work is free of exploitation and abuse, including by implementing the kinds of “broader based bargaining” strategies that would make collective action and worker power a reality for caregivers.

In the next phases of this exemption review, Ontario must prioritize those industries where workers are most vulnerable, including sectors that rely heavily on migrant labour. In particular, we urge Ontario to ensure that the agricultural sector is included in the next phase of the review.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL SUBMISSION HERE: MWAC Exemption Review Phase One – December 2017

Policy Submissions: Open Work Permit Program for Migrant Workers Facing Risk

Policy Submissions: Open Work Permit Program for Migrant Workers Facing Risk

Migrant workers and their support organizations across Canada call on the Federal Government to ensure permanent resident status upon arrival for all migrant workers. The current system of temporary, employer specific work permits leaves labour and human rights beyond the reach of migrant workers in Canada. As an interim step to permanent resident status, we are calling on the Federal Government to create open work permits for all workers.

The Federal Government, however, has begun discussions about creating an open work permit program for workers facing abuse only. Here are submissions on how to make this program effective and responsive.

Click to download: Open Work Permit Program for Migrant Workers Facing Risk

 

MWAC support to expand the Human Rights Code

MWAC support to expand the Human Rights Code

A Private Members Bill is proceeding through the Ontario legislature which aims to add ‘immigration status’ as grounds for protection in the Human Rights code.

Here is our letter in support.

If you organization is sending in a letter, please email us at info@migrantworkersalliance.org