Migrant workers: Precarious status and rights abuses

A number of factors open the door to the abuse of migrant workers’ rights.

Lack of permanent status: migrant workers may be (and have been) fired and deported for complaining about perceived abuses, or trying to negotiate conditions. In cases where migrant workers have prospects of permanent residence in Canada, it is dependent on their employer.

Closed work permits: not only are migrant workers’ permits temporary, but they are tied to a specific employer. This means workers have very limited options if their employer is mistreating them.

Living with the employer: Live-in Caregivers and many agricultural workers live in their employer’s house or on their property, making them dependent on them for their home as well as for their job.

Isolation: In many cases migrant workers are socially isolated by their lack of knowledge of English and French, unfamiliarity with Canada and limited information about their rights. Some migrant workers are physically isolated, and without the means of transport to get to services.

Complaints systems inaccessible: all of the above factors contribute to making it extremely difficult for migrant workers to use existing complaints mechanisms. Timelines also mean that a migrant worker is likely to have left Canada long before the complaint has been resolved.

Gap between federal and provincial jurisdictions: The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is federally regulated, but labour standards are a provincial responsibility.

Lack of monitoring and enforcement: There is little monitoring of the workplaces or conditions of employment by the federal or most provincial governments. Employers rarely face serious consequences when rules are breached.

Source: Migrant workers: http://ccrweb.ca/en/migrant-workers/report-cards

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