Ottawa — The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition, is gravely concerned by leaked reports of changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) that seem to continue to punish migrant workers’ for employer abuse and government failure. The decision to limit the time migrant workers can stay in Canada, increased LMO fees, and limits on migrant worker hiring by employer will result in making migrant workers’ more precarious, and less able to assert their rights. This continues the trend of laws that construct and determine migrant worker insecurity. MWAC suggests the following questions be raised at the press briefing on reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program today. A full statement will be issued following the formal announcement and MWAC members will be available for comment. On raising LMO fees There is no national framework to regulate recruiters and no national ban on charging migrant workers fees for work. In such a climate, how will you ensure that higher LMO fees aren’t simply downloaded to migrant workers themselves? On caps on workers that employers can hire There were 65,125 new LMOs issued for low-skilled workers just in the first half of 2013 (the 31,000 figure floated by ESDC does not include LMOs issued for workers already in Canada). It is already extremely difficult for migrant workers in Canada to change jobs. A limit on the number of available jobs would mean (as it already does in the food sector following the recent moratorium) that workers and their employers would know that switching jobs within the sector is harder if not impossible. How will you ensure that cap on workers an employer can hire does not simply result in further migrant worker abuse by employers and less willingness to complain by migrant workers? On time-limits that migrant workers can stay in Canada Isn’t a time-limit just a revolving door where the same employer can just bring a new set of workers with less awareness of their rights and who are easier to abuse? Many migrant workers and advocates have argued that limiting the number of years that a worker can stay in Canada to four as of April 2015 will result in mass detentions and deportations, and many workers will be forced to become undocumented. Would further reducing the number of years that migrant workers live here not exacerbate that? Why is there no program to grandfather the workers already in the country in to full immigration status? Does the existence of various temporary foreign workers program since the late 60s not prove that there is a need for immigrants in such jobs? Didn’t all of the groups that ESDC consulted with support access to permanent residency for migrant workers? On targeting employers who break the rules Labour law enforcement is the mandate of provinces. Under current federal laws, a migrant worker’s ability to stay in Canada is tied to their employer. The only way for workers to complain about employers that break the rules is by complaining to the provincial Ministry of Labour (MoL). How will you ensure that migrant workers will actually assert their rights, as complaining to MoL can lead to deportation and is therefore simply not an option? Will Ottawa actually be giving money for proactive labour law enforcement to the different provinces? On consultations that led to these decisions Though there was one meeting with advocacy and labour organizations, was there any consultation with migrant worker groups on these reforms? How do you think migrant workers will respond to these announcements? On exemptions for ‘seasonal’ workers and live-in caregivers Some of the worst allegations of abuses, including deaths, have taken place in seasonal industries like agriculture and hospitality. Why do the specific reforms aimed at curbing employer abuse exempt those migrant workers from protections? On access to benefits
Closed work permits exclude migrant workers from equal access to social entitlements such as healthcare. Many sick and injured migrants lose access to healthcare once their work permits expires thus denying them access to desperately needed medical help. How will the changes announced today ensure that migrant workers do not fall through the cracks?
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition. It includes Alliance of South Asian Aid Prevention, Asian Community Aids Services, Caregivers Action Centre, Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, Justicia for Migrant Workers,KAIROS, Legal Aid Windsor, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto,UNIFOR, United Food and Commercial Workers and the Workers’ Action Centre. www.migrantworkersalliance.org