Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

July 16, 2014 10:22 ET

Recruitment Fees to Be Banned for All Migrant Workers but Real Protections Still Needed

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - July 16, 2014) - The Ontario government is recognizing migrant worker abuse at the hands of recruiters by re-introducing Bill 146, but real protections for migrant workers are still missing says the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC). A law announced today will extend a ban on charging recruitment fees from just Live-In Caregivers to all migrant workers.

Today's announcement will also remove the arbitrary monetary cap on reclaiming unpaid wages and extend the deadline for filing claims to two years increasing protections for migrant workers.

"The Ontario government should follow Manitoba's lead and implement a system of proactive enforcement so that migrant workers don't pay thousands of dollars in fees to come to Canada. Doing so would free migrant workers and their families from immense debt and would increase their ability to assert their rights here," says Syed Hussan, MWAC Coordinator.

"A proactive systems is one where employers and recruiters are kept accountable through registering and licensing, and are held jointly financially liable if workers are charged fees for work," Hussan explains.

"As Ontario moves forward on protections from recruiters and changes to the Employment Standards Act, we also need to look deeply at the ways in which provincial laws exclude migrant workers from benefits and protections," adds Chris Ramsaroop from the MWAC. "We look forward to the Wynne government actually sitting down with migrant workers and overhauling minimum wage, employment protections, health and safety, social assistance and other regulations."

Statements for Migrant Workers

"After migrant workers exposed abuses by recruiters in 2009, we won protections for live-in caregivers but other migrant workers were unnecessarily excluded. Today after four years of migrant workers speaking out about their experiences, recruitment fees are finally being banned for all migrant workers. Unfortunately over two-thirds of the caregivers we surveyed after the law came into effect in 2009 still paid fees. That's because these protections rely on complaints and not proactive enforcement. For there to be meaningful protections, Ontario must follow provinces like Manitoba and actually regulate recruiters and employers. Migrant workers are not inherently vulnerable, its provincial laws that exclude us from basic protections that make us so. Many migrant workers are being denied immigration status by the Federal Government. Ontario must step up to the table and come up real changes."

- Liza Draman, spokesperson for the Caregivers Action Centre, member organization of MWAC.

"I paid $1500 in Honduras to come work here in Canada. Here I worked in an unsafe job at a mushroom farm for a year to be able to pay back that debt. On top of that, my employer regularly stole my wages and I couldn't file a claim with the Ministry or I would have been fired and sent back home. I had to wait until I finished my contract, went home and came back with another employer but by then I had exceeded the current 6 month limit on claims. Today's changes are an important step, but migrant workers need much stronger protections to ensure we have equal rights on the job."

- Juan Miguel, a temporary foreign worker leader with Justicia for Migrant Workers, member organization of the MWAC.

"Getting rid of the unfair $10,000 limit for employment standards claims and giving workers two years to file claims is a real victory for Ontario workers. I was forced to go to court to claim my stolen wages - now more workers can file complaints when they face wage theft."

- Lilliane Namukasa a former migrant worker who is owed unpaid wages well over the $10,000 limit.

"Today's labour reforms are a result of the advocacy efforts of migrant workers who took to the streets and held politicians accountable for the 19th century working and living conditions that we face in 21st century Ontario. However this victory is bittersweet. Many of our friends who fought for this have been terminated or deported for standing up for their rights. They will not enjoy the fruits of their labour. We owe it to them to continue the struggle and ensure that we are no longer treated as second class citizens."

- Kyla Hernandez, a Filipino migrant worker who paid $5,000 to work in a vegetable packaging company in Windsor, ON, and spoke out against recruitment fees in 2008 adds.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change 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.

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