Just as with a spouse in an abusive personal relationship, walking out on a bad employer is often not an easy choice for temporary foreign workers.
A report released Wednesday (May 28) shines a light on the extent of employer control built into three schemes for importing transient workers into Canada: the Live-in Caregiver Program, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, and the Stream for Lower-skilled Occupations.
The West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association worked on the report, Labour Trafficking & Migrant Workers, for more than a year.
In April, the federal government stopped the food-services industry from hiring temporary workers following recent reports of abuses by employers.
“We knew these things were happening,” lawyer and WCDWA executive director Ai Li Lim told the Straight by phone.
The Vancouver-based group interviewed caregivers, agricultural workers, and low-skilled employees who spoke about fear as a tool used by exploitative bosses.
“The stories indicate that while workers were not physically constrained, perpetrators would use tactics of psychological manipulation to intimidate workers to continue working,” the report’s working draft notes. “Research participants reported that one of the most common tactics used was the threat of deportation or reports to law enforcement authorities.”
The report makes several recommendations. One is to abolish the requirement of employer support for an employee in the low-skilled stream to access provincial nominee programs that open the door to permanent residency in Canada.
The WCDWA report also calls for a stop to allowing employers to name agricultural workers they want to return for the next season.
And it proposes spot checks in homes where live-in caregivers are employed: “This will allow for accommodation standards to be checked, a review of pay-stubs against a contract, an audit of payment, and a private interview with the caregiver to ensure fair treatment.”
In addition to recommending home inspections, the document proposes eliminating the live-in requirement of the caregiver program.