Saturday, March 20, 2010

Canada plays host to an increasing number of foreign temporary workers, and their lot is not an easy one. Unless they have the good fortune to be represented by a union they pretty much fall outside of the normal legal protections that Canadian workers enjoy. Here's a story from Alberta about just how grasping their employers can be. From a press release by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union...
Alberta stats confirm frontline evidence of foreign worker abuse

Workplace violation statistics released as UFCW Canada delegation and allies gather for national conference on challenges faced by immigrants and foreign workers

March 18, 2010 — The violation of the workplace rights of many Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) in Alberta “reinforces what we’ve reported for years now,” says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada. “Except for locations where those workers have a union, TFWs in Alberta and across Canada are regular targets for exploitation and workplace abuse.”
UFCW Canada is Canada’s largest private sector union, and represents thousands of TFWs under collective agreements. These agreements protect these TFWs against workplace violations, require health and safety information in the workers’ language, and provide a legal pathway for these workers to permanent Canadian residency.
“So the story for UFCW Canada members who are Temporary Foreign Workers is positive. But outside the union, TFWs are treated by thousands of employers like disposable commodities, with no respect for their safety or other workplace rights. The latest stats from Alberta back that up.”
The UFCW Canada president’s remarks come in the wake of newly released Alberta Ministry of Labour inspection statistics that show that of the 407 Alberta TFW workplaces inspected this year, 74% of those employers had violated the Employment Standards Act regarding pay rates and record keeping. The data was released by the Alberta NDP, which obtained the records under a Freedom of Information application. ( In other words the Alberta government had to be squeezed to provide the information- Molly )
“We agree with the Alberta NDP and the Alberta Federation of Labour that the federal government’s TFW program needs to be revised to fully respect the human and labour rights of these vulnerable workers. That should also include the right to build a permanent life in Canada for these workers and their families. And that goes across this country — not just Alberta,” said Hanley.
“Unless you’re unionized, the treatment of Temporary Foreign Workers continues to be a national disgrace,” says Naveen Mehta, Director of Human Rights, Equity and Diversity, UFCW Canada.
Mehta is also one of a 25 UFCW Canada delegates from across the country who are attending the 12th Annual Metropolis Conference on Immigration and Diversity being held in Montreal. UFCW Canada is presenting and participating as one of the country’s leading advocates, in the community and on the front lines, for migrant workers in Canada.
“The federal government has to stop turning a blind eye to what happens to these workers once they get to Canada,” says Mehta. “Canada was built on generations of immigrants. That is a proud legacy that is being cast aside by federal migrant worker programs that treat these workers like inputs and not people. We are here with our allies to change that.”

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