Proposed Ontario labour law extends to foreign workers

Ontario will bar employers from charging all temporary foreign workers recruitment fees, according to new legislation introduced Wednesday.

Yasir Naqvi, Ontario's labour minister, announced new legisation to protect vulnerable workers at the downtown Toronto YMCA Wednesday.

By:  Immigration reporter, Published on Wed Dec 04 2013

Ontario will bar employers from charging recruitment fees and seizing personal documents from all temporary foreign workers, says Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi.

However, advocates for migrant workers say the proposed labour legislation falls short by failing to establish a registry of employers and recruiters similar to Manitoba’s, and holding them accountable by contributing to a bond that would compensate abused workers.

The number of temporary foreign workers in Ontario has skyrocketed from 91,000 in 2008 to 120,000 in 2012, as in other provinces across Canada.

“This is a good first step, but more needs to be done to reach out to migrant workers,” said Tzazna Miranda of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

The extension of the protection to the growing rank of migrant workers is part of sweeping changes announced by Naqvi Wednesday morning to better protect vulnerable workers in Ontario, among them workers hired by temporary help agencies, unpaid co-op students and other unpaid learners.

“Our government is standing up for workers and increasing fairness for business with this bill. It’s about taking action to protect the most vulnerable workers and level the playing field for employers, who play by the rules,” Naqvi told a news conference.

The Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act will eliminate the $10,000 cap on the recovery of owed wages and increase the period of recovery from six and 12 months to two years for employees.

It will also make temporary help agencies and employers jointly liable for employment standard violations, which will help decrease the number of companies that hire individuals solely to work in unsafe conditions.

Deena Ladd of Toronto’s Workers’ Action Centre said these changes can strengthen the protection of workers’ rights.

She said the effectiveness of these new measures lies in the enforcement, and raising the province’s minimum wage from the current $10.25 to $14 will be the next step.

In 2009, Ontario introduced a law to ban recruitment agencies from charging fees on live-in caregivers. Yet, critics said foreign caregivers are still being charged recruitment fees to secure jobs in the province.

Vigil: Celebrate Migrant Workers on December 18th

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change invites you to
Vigil: Celebrate Migrant Workers
http://www.facebook.com/events/302043009829811

5pm, December 18, 2011

Chinese Railway Workers’ Memorial (Map: http://bit.ly/vfFAmk)

Flowers, food, fruits and wine are the markers of the holiday season – grown, packaged, shipped, cooked by migrant workers across this country. As people begin to plan festivities, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, is calling on migrant workers, undocumented people and their allies to join us at the Chinese Railway Workers` Memorial at 5pm in a vigil of somber reflection and to reiterate the need for immediate, urgent action to ensure justice, dignity and status for all migrants.

We demand: 

* A right to landing status be granted upon arrival for migrant workers. They must not be tied to one employer, be required to live in their employer’s home, or be subject to further medical examination;

* A right to equal access for all social programs, including Employment Insurance, health care, settlement services and social services;

* A right to a fair appeal process for migrant workers prior to a pre-removal order, and a stop to deportations until this process is in place;

* A right to full protection for all migrants under all provincial laws, including the Employment Standards Act, Health and Safety laws and WSIB, and including no fees for any work placement.

* Immediately implement a national regularization programs granting permanent immigration status for all non-residents living in Canada.

On December 18, 2011, migrant and their allies around the world will come together on factory floors, in farm fields, in hotels and construction sites, and on the streets to commemorate and celebrate the struggles of migrant workers on the Global Day of Action Against Racism, And for the Rights of Migrants, Refugees and Displaced People (http://globalmigrantsaction.org/) – Join us in Toronto!

More people are entering the Canadian labour force as temporary workers today then people entering Canada as permanent residents. Temporariness is also being instituted in the family sponsorship class, for parents and grandparents and within the refugee system. This means that migrants, often people of color, are being forced to work in sub-standard conditions, being used and abused by employers and corporations and sometimes having to make the difficult decision between living in the country without immigration status or being pushed out from communities and employment in the country. In spite of this, migrant workers continue to organize, to resist, and fight back. Join us on December 18, to continue this struggle.

Note: Migrant Workers Alliance for Change will also be doing leafletting and flyering at 3pm at Yonge & Dundas Square.

Alliance advocates for immigrant workers’ rights

Metro News Toronto, May 30, 2011 
Senthil Thevar, who was recruited from India in 2008 to work as a cook in Toronto, was afraid to complain about his bosses because his legal status here was tied to his employers a reason advocates call the foreign worker program “indentured slavery.”

Foreign farm workers, nannies and other temporary labourers in Canada are forming a united front to fight for better treatment by employers.

“What we are seeing now is a shift and expansion of the temporary foreign workers program from agriculture and live-in care to food industry, restaurants, hospitality and tourism,” said Sonia Singh of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, the coalition to be launched this week.

“We are seeing worsening work conditions for these workers. It sets a dangerous path to have our immigration policy based on temporary work.”

Despite the recent economic downturn, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has skyrocketed from 160,908 in 2006 to 283,096 in 2010.

Individual groups have organized within their own sectors, but it is time to have a united front to advocate for all foreign workers, who are at the mercy of Canadian employers and third-party recruiters, said Singh, whose group is made up of 17 grassroots organizations and unions.

Resisting Precarity Forum

Resisting Precarity: An Immigration-Labour Policy Forum.
Introducing the Migrant Workers-Alliance for Change.

June 1, 2011
10am – 12:30pm
280 POD, Jorgenson Hall, Ryerson University
380 Victoria Street

Please register by: http://bit.ly/ResistingPrecarityMWAC

Join us at this forum to find out about the work and campaigns of the Migrant Workers’ Alliance for Change.

Find out about new fact sheets and resources for community agencies working with migrant worker populations.

Help strategize around winning protections for migrant workers and organizing against immigration policy based on temporary work and increased precarity in the context of a newly elected Harper majority.

 

Foreign workers uniting to seek better treatment

First published in the Toronto Star

Senthil Thevar, who was recruited from India in 2008 to work as a cook in Toronto, is shown at the Workers Action Centre on Spadina Ave.

COLIN MCCONNELL / TORONTO STAR

Senthil Thevar, who was recruited from India in 2008 to work as a cook in Toronto, is shown at the Workers Action Centre on Spadina Ave.

By: Nicholas Keung Immigration Reporter, Published on Sun May 29 2011
Foreign farm workers, nannies and other temporary labourers in Canada are forming a united front to fight for better treatment by employers.

“What we are seeing now is a shift and expansion of the temporary foreign workers program from agriculture and live-in care to food industry, restaurants, hospitality and tourism,” said Sonia Singh of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, the coalition to be launched this week.

“We are seeing worsening work conditions for these workers. It sets a dangerous path to have our immigration policy based on temporary work.”

Despite the recent economic downturn, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has skyrocketed from 160,908 in 2006 to 283,096 in 2010.

Individual groups have organized within their own sectors, but it is time to have a united front to advocate for all foreign workers, who are at the mercy of Canadian employers and third-party recruiters, said Singh, whose group is made up of 17 grassroots organizations and unions.

Senthil Thevar, who was recruited from India in 2008 to work as a cook in Toronto, was afraid to complain about his bosses because his legal status here was tied to his employers — a reason advocates call the foreign worker program “indentured slavery.”

On documents submitted for government approval, Thevar, 35, was promised $18 an hour by his first employer, and $15 by the second. In reality, he was paid less than the $10.25 minimum wage, factoring in the 11- to 12-hour days he put in at $2,000 a month.

“The contract is just a formality,” said the Mumbai native, who got his permanent resident status last summer based on his Canadian work experience and employment.

That’s when he approached his employer for fair wages. He said he left the job in April after failing to recoup the money.

The federal government has repeatedly passed the buck of labour protection to the provinces.

Although Ontario has passed new laws to better protect foreign workers, Singh said the protection is limited to live-in caregivers, whose plight was highlighted in a Starinvestigative series that prompted the changes.

In 2008, Kyla, who asked her full name not be used, paid $5,000 to an agent in the Philippines with a Canadian recruiter for a job at a vegetable packaging company.

Her name was taken off the employer’s contract with the foreign workers after she refused to pay the recruiter another $1,500 to renew her job and work permit.

“That’s a lot of money. Some people are still paying after two years. I called the (provincial) hotline and they told me it was for nannies’ complaints only,” said Kyla, who later found another job with the help of a Windsor legal clinic.

Among the new alliance’s priorities:

  A right to permanent status granted to migrant workers upon arrival.

  Access to all social programs including employment insurance and settlement services.

  Full protection under the Ontario Employment Standards Act and regulations.

Whereabouts of foreign workers in Ontario in 2010

Toronto: 50,020

Ottawa-Gatineau (Ontario part): 4,631

Hamilton: 2,142

London: 1,581

Kitchener: 1,468

St. Catharines-Niagara: 989

Windsor: 671

Oshawa: 646

Guelph: 561

Leamington: 374

Greater Sudbury: 323

Sarnia: 281

Barrie: 279

Kingston: 229

Norfolk: 217

Other parts: 35,062

Total: 99,474

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada