Toronto – December 6, 2013 – The announcement of proposed Ontario legislation to extend protections for migrant and precarious workers "is a very positive first step in renewing employment standards legislation and extending workplace health and safety legislation," says UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema. UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers) is Canada's leading and most progressive private-sector union with more than 250,000 members nationally. For more than two decades, UFCW Canada has led the campaign to enhance protections for migrant and temporary workers.
"Right now, temporary and migrant workers in Ontario are at the end of the line when it comes to protecting their employment and labour rights," says Meinema. "For decades, many migrant and temporary foreign workers have essentially been held hostage by recruitment agencies charging outlandish fees to come to Canada. The proposed ban on recruitment fees is a good move, but inspection and enforcement is crucial for it to work."
UFCW Canada acted on the advisory board to the Ontario Law Reform Commission whose report on precarious employment preceded today's announcement. Many of the proposed changes were also recommended in the report released last summer.
"The Law Reform Commission, and now the Ontario government have recognized that for many workers in Ontario, temporary work is a permanent situation," says Meinema. "For decades, we have advocated for both immigrant and temporary foreign workers faced with being shortchanged on wages, or docked wages to pay back recruiters. The proposed changes seemingly give them some recourse."
Meinema notes that "while this is a positive move, particularly with regard to recruitment fees, thousands of ultra-vulnerable migrant agriculture workers are still subject to the Mike Harris Tory ban on unionizing. Without lifting that ban, many of the benefits of the announcement made today will be of little benefit to migrant agriculture workers."
More than 100,000 UFCW Canada members work in Ontario. In association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA), UFCW Canada also operates 10 agriculture worker support centres across Canada, including four in Ontario, representing more than 12,000 migrant agriculture workers.