29 April, 2013
Federal Immigration policy changes lack enough protection for migrants
Consultations with migrant workers necessary for meaningful change
The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), a coalition of migrant worker groups and community, faith, and labour allies who have worked directly with migrant workers for decades believes that the minor changes introduced today do not respond to the key concerns migrant workers have identified in the program and are mostly cosmetic.
“We are not stealing jobs, but filling the ones that Canadians do not want due to the long hours, low pay, and live-in requirement,” insists Kay Manuel, a live-in caregiver and member of the Caregivers Action Centre. “The biggest problem with the migrant worker program is that we don’t have the same rights as citizens, the only solution is full immigration status for all workers.”
“We are tired of hearing about laws about how we migrant workers live and work without our voices and concerns ever being heard,” Manuel added.
“Either the Tories want to launch the largest deportation campaign in the history of Canada by shutting out 300,000 migrant workers or they are just posturing in response to public outcry over the failings of the program they created,” adds Chris Ramsaroop, who has worked with agricultural workers in Ontario for the last ten years. “While incremental steps have been taken to eliminate the 15% and 5% rule, and the elimination of the Accelerated LMO process, the core structures of the TFW programs that deny migrant workers the ability to exert their rights have remained intact. Migrant workers will now face greater hardships because of the downloading of LMO costs on to employers which really just means downloading it on to the workers. This adds to the huge sums of money migrant workers already have to pay to get work in Canada.”
“The entire argument about migrant workers taking jobs that unemployed Canadians would otherwise take is about exceptions not the rule,” says Syed Hussan, Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “In the past these low-paying jobs were held by new immigrants not young unemployed Canadians, except they had full status and could bring their families. Now it’s the same demographic working the same jobs, except they have lesser rights. It’s not workers stealing jobs from Canadians, it’s the Conservative government stealing status from immigrants, and separating families.”
Short-term reforms to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program
Here are some immediate steps the Conservative government can take to correct the mistaken policies of past years:
- Eliminate the 4 and 4 rule under which workers can work in Canada for four years and are banned for the next four
- End the downloading of costs through LMO user fees on to employers and/or migrant workers.
- Restore the EI special benefits for TFWP, and ensure full access to employment insurance to all workers that have been employed in Canada.
- Work with provinces to develop a pan-Canadian framework to register and regulate recruiters and employers to ensure that workers rights are protected, and that recruiter fees are eliminated.
Any further reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program must prioritize consultation and decision making by migrant workers themselves.