Migrant workers in Canada exploited because of restricted mobility: new report

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      A new report throws a spotlight on Canada’s growing army of "unfree" migrant workers.

      They work jobs that could otherwise be done by Canadians and permanent residents but they don’t have the same labour mobility as citizens and landed immigrants.

      Temporary foreign workers are tied to specific employers, and that’s the reason why many of them are cheated and abused, according to a report titled Access to Justice for Migrant Workers in B.C.

      "The idea of ‘unfree’ workers, which perpetuates precariousness, has been linked to the erosion of labor standards in the workforce and some academics have opined that it has caused the clustering of migrant workers in particular industries where enforcement of employment standards is a particular problem," states the report prepared by the West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association.

      The Vancouver-based organization will present its report in a forum on Saturday (August 10) at the SFU Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver. The event starts at 1 p.m.

      The WCDWA has traditionally helped workers who enter Canada through the Live-in Caregiver Program. It notes that in recent years it has seen a sharp increase in requests for assistance from other temporary foreign workers, including seasonal farm labourers and others employed in restaurants and hotels.

      The WCDWA report notes that prior to the 1960s, migrant labourers were admitted to Canada as permanent residents. This changed in later years, as the country followed the global trend of importing temporary foreign workers.

      Citing federal government data, the study mentions that more than 20,000 foreign workers came to B.C. in 2002. By 2006, the number rose to 31,013, and it increased to 46,378 in 2011.

      Initial figures from Citizenship and Immigration Canada indicate that in 2012, the arrivals rose to 49,488 in B.C. out of a nationwide total of 218,516.

      This makes B.C. the second-largest host of temporary workers after Ontario, the WCDWA report notes, with Alberta in third place.

      Unlike citizens and permanent residents, temporary foreign workers cannot leave and change employers at will. If they wish to do so, they must go through a difficult process of securing a new work permit.

      "The supply of an ever-renewable workforce that has little ability to bargain for better standards tampers down wages and work conditions by essentially creating a disincentive for employers to invest in their workers and improve compensation and conditions," the study notes.

      It points out that employment standards provided by legislation are no guarantee that temporary foreign workers are properly protected. The study states the "incentive for governments to strictly enforce employment standards is reduced when the workforce is predominantly temporary and migrant, and in some cases the reduction in standards can be deliberate".

      The WCDWA report makes several recommendations to remedy inequities it says are inherent in Canada’s temporary foreign worker program.

      One is to allow migrant workers to "freely circulate" in the labour market. This means they would have to be issued open work permits.

      "Short of providing all workers with open work permits, freedom of association could be facilitated by issuing sector-specific, instead of employer-specific, work permits," the WCDWA also recommends.

      Its report underscores that migrant workers remain vulnerable to exploitation "as long as their legal status in Canada is tied to a specific employer".

      "These conditions create drastic power imbalances between employer and employee," the report states. "Because workers’ ability to support themselves is tied to one employer, many workers are unwilling to leave bad working conditions because of the difficulty of securing a new work permit."



      More Corporate Welfare

      Aug 9, 2013 at 3:06pm

      This Temp Worker bullshit is solely for the benefit of Corporations to get cheap labor and make more profit.

      Mostly in the Oil & Gas Sector in Alberta that houses between 468,000 to 500,000 Foreign Temp Workers.

      The Conservatives putting the CON in CONservative.


      Aug 10, 2013 at 1:00pm

      Canadians need jobs, companies hire people. Companies pay low wages and people go elsewhere. Companies raise their wages and people come back. You just don't fill the country with people who will work for low wages and then subsidize their stay with our tax dollars. It's not fair for the rest of us who are already here. We need work and can't afford our own taxes or rents.


      Aug 10, 2013 at 2:11pm

      So who cares.

      Re: More corporate welfare

      Aug 11, 2013 at 10:44pm

      Alberta has a population of 3.5 mil. Your telling me that 1/7 of that is migrant workers working for the oil companies?

      Where do you get your stats ? Also, most jobs in petroleum and oil are skilled trades/ technical jobs such as pipe fitters, rig workers, engineers and geologists.. its not the same as picking blueberries and strawberries.

      Get your stats straight and stop pointing completely incorrect information towards oil companies.

      And all you people that liked his comment.. use your common sense and think about what a person says before you decide to like it because it puts blame on the oil companies.

      Lawrence Hearn

      Aug 12, 2013 at 8:58am

      Historically Conservatives have profited from slavery and its indentured servitude replacement. Is it any wonder that the current batch of Conservatives have put in place a system that hearkens back to such 19th century practices. The only way to improve the lot of ordinary working people is to get rid of Harper's Conservatives (and their BC Liberal co-ideologues). And the only way to ensure these social criminals are banished to the dust heap of history is to replace 1st by the post electoral systems federally and provincially with truly representative systems. The rightwing nasties will always be with us, but their anti-social views shouldn't be allowed to serve themselves and their corporate masters at the expense of ordinary people.

      Corporate Welfare

      Aug 13, 2013 at 10:00am

      @Re: Stats...

      [1] Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) are MOSTLY employed for the TAR SANDS Oil Sector including the TFW's from the Philippines working in the Local Timmy's to serve Coffee to the TAR SANDS Workers at 5:3am-7am.

      [2] From 2011 - 2012 Labor Market Stats from HRDC SHOW A 66.38% INCREASE in TFW under the Labor Market Opinion (LMO) Application by Employers in Alberta...

      ...HOWEVER, Not all TFWs require an LMO to obtain a work permit. A number of exemptions exist, including those provided for in the General Agreement on Trade in Services and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

      [3] The LMO Stats ONLY Track Applications for TFW's that require it it DOES NOT Track other TFW's in Alberta that come from Countries like Mexico, the US under NAFTA and other Countries mostly EU.

      [4] Under LMO ONLY the number of Temporary Foreign Workers in Alberta ALONE in 2012 is 84,465 !!! Ontario with a FAR Bigger Population has only 49,000 TFW's under LMO.

      [5] This DOES NOT Include...

      - the 100,000 TFW's in Seasonal Agriculture not covered under LMO,

      - the 200,000 TFW's in Oil & Gas not covered under LMO's

      - Another 100,000 in Health Care like low skilled Care Givers from the Philippines & other Third World Countries that Wheel around Old People.

      [6] Given Just the Growth Trend 66.38% Year over Year in the Temporary Foreign Workers under the LMO Classification in Alberta ALONE it's only a matter of a few years before Alberta's TFW's outnumber Canadians Employed in Oil & Gas & a few other Industries in Alberta.


      Despite the incredible Wealth in the Alberta TAR SANDS the Province is in a serious STRUCTURAL DEFICIT!!!

      Only CONservative Moron's could have a Deficit with Record Oil Prices.

      Compare Alberta & Canada's Oil Royalty Structure with Norway who keeps 70% of Oil Profits! And NewFoundLand with about 20% and large Surplus.

      Alberta being either Morons or Complicit with the Tar Sands Corporations prices it's Royalty not on Oil Prices but the low price of BITUMEN!

      Than our Federal Government Rebates Billions BACK to Tar Sands Oil Corporations in Credits ensuring Canada makes about Net ZERO Royalties from the TAR SANDS!

      How Stupid not to have a similar Royalty Structure like Norway which is a Nationalized Oil Corporation that keeps 70% of the Oil Profits OMG for the benefit the Citizens of Norway.