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:
- A comprehensive and transparent consultation process to reform the Caregiver Program.
- A new Federal Workers Program – Caregiver Stream that provides caregivers with permanent status on entry and family unity.
- 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.
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.
Are you on a study permit? Do you have questions about your study permit or other immigration matters? Is your boss not paying you enough? Do you have problems with school administration?
Then this session is for you. Come for free legal advice, to meet others in your situation and to ask questions
REGISTER NOW: firstname.lastname@example.org
Employment and Immigration Rights Session
May 3, 6pm – 9pm,
Suite 202, 720 Spadina Avenue
Organized by the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC). MWAC is Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition. We focus on service provision, advocacy and legal reform. Find us at www.migrantworkersalliance.org
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
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and Caregivers Action Centre made the following policy submission to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. DOWNLOAD HERE
Our key recommendations on Medical Inadmissibility:
- Immediately repeal Section 38(1)(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
- Immediately grant permanent residency to everyone who was denied permanent residency on the basis of Section 38(1)(c) in the last 10 years.
FURTHER RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MIGRANT WORKER RIGHTS
We also urge the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to develop legislation that:
1) Ensures permanent immigration status for all migrant workers
Status for All, Status on Arrival: All migrant workers must be able to immigrate to Canada as permanent residents immediately, independently and permanently without depending or relying on the sponsorship or good will of their employers or third party agencies. This program should include migrant workers already in Canada, those that have worked here and left and those arriving in the future. Migrant workers who have been granted permanent residency should get comprehensive settlement services that will ensure their success.
- This recommendation is distinctly separate from a provision of ‘pathway to permanent residency’. A ‘pathway’ is a two-step process that Caregivers had until November 2014 — the current two-streamed program contains a more restrictive pathway — and even then was shown to have the same forms of abuse and vulnerability that are found in other parts of the program.
- Permanent residency ensures services: Many labour rights and basic services in Canada like healthcare and post-secondary education are tied to permanent immigration status. Migrant workers pay for all these services through taxes and deserve access to them.
- Permanent residency is the norm: Most immigrants – refugees, spouses, high-waged immigrants – arrive to Canada with permanent resident immigration status, which gives them peace of mind, the ability to re-unite with their families and the tools they need to lay deeper roots and build our society further as soon as they arrive.
- Permanent residency re-unites families: Landed status on arrival would also allow caregivers to enter Canada with their families, thus eradicating family separation (which averages 6-8 years) while caregivers complete the program and wait for their permanent residence applications to be processed.
2) Ensures access to all social services and benefits
Ensure access to Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance and other federal entitlements to migrant workers already in Canada and portable benefits to migrant workers who are no longer here.
The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (Bill 148) introduces many important changes to address Ontario’s outdated labour laws. The proposed changes in Bill 148 to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and Labour Relations Act (LRA) provide a good start to addressing precarious work to deal with changing workplace practices.
However, we join with the Workers Action Centre and Parkdale Community Legal Services in calling for amendments to Bill 148 to ensure it can close the gaps and raise the floor of minimum standards for the highest possible number of workers in Ontario. In particular, we call on the Committee to make the necessary amendments to ensure that workers have notice of their schedules and are compensated when the shift is cancelled at the last minute, and to ensure that the equal pay provisions can meet their goal of alleviating the unfair treatment of part-time and temporary agency workers.
At the same time we urge the government of Ontario to take this opportunity to address the following areas:
- End employment standards exemptions: Only one quarter of workers in Ontario are completely covered by the minimum standards due to a complex web of exemptions. The proposed legislation does not address these exemptions, instead leaving the issue to a recently announced and separate process. Many migrant workers fall within these exemptions. The Employment Standards Act sets the floor for the most basic workers’ rights – all workers should enjoy these rights and Bill 148 should simply eliminate exemptions that apply to migrant workers. In the alternative, Bill 148 should be amended to include a narrow definition of the circumstances in which an exemption will be available in order to better guide the separate review of exemptions.
- Stop illegal recruitment fees: In 2009, the provincial government took an important step by prohibiting recruitment fees. However, there are ongoing reports of recruiters demanding exorbitant and illegal fees from migrant workers. Effective enforcement and mandatory registration for recruiters and employers is required to ensure that migrant workers can take home their pay.
- Effective enforcement requires protection from repatriation for migrant workers: The important gains in the proposed legislation will be illusory unless enforcement is strengthened. MWAC welcomes government announcements about significant increases to enforcement resources. We urge the government to consider the particular vulnerabilities faced by migrant workers, who face immediate repatriation by unscrupulous employers if they complain. Working with the federal government to issue open work permits when complaints are made and allowing anonymous complaints would alleviate some barriers to enforcement for migrant workers.
- Caregivers and agricultural workers must have equal rights to unionize: Unions are the most effective way to ensure fairness and democracy in workplaces. Yet agricultural workers and caregivers – two industries that are rife with abuse – are excluded from the Labour Relations Act and thus have no effective way to unionize. We urge government to accept the recommendations of the Special Advisors and end these unfair exemptions. There is no reason to delay this step to a separate “exemptions review” process.
Millions of workers (and their families) in this province are waiting to see how your committee will pave the way to strengthen Ontario’s archaic labour laws. We are calling on you to reject suggestions that will make work more precarious, under the guise of enabling flexibility for the kind of business practices that continue to exert downward pressure on the wages and working conditions of all of us.
The bulk of evidence shows that decent work is the foundation of a strong economy, better health outcomes, and reduced inequality.
The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change also fully supports the recommendations and amendments put forward in the submissions by: the Workers’ Action Centre, Parkdale Community Legal Services, and the Ontario Federation of Labour as part of the Fight for $15 and Fairness.
DOWNLOAD OUR LETTER HERE
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.
If you organization is sending in a letter, please email us at email@example.com
Please read the joint submission by Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and Caregivers Action Centre entitled
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.