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.