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A BC Labour Perspective 1

A BC Labour Perspective 1. Abuse of Workers Labour’s response Governments’ Roles 2

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Page 1: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

A BC Labour Perspective

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Page 2: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Abuse of Workers

Labour’s response

Governments’ Roles

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Page 3: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Job placements span occupations from live-in caregivers, service/retail workers, agricultural workers, construction workers

Employers range in size from small businesses including retail franchises and family farms to international conglomerates

Includes major public works projects funded by taxpayers

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Page 4: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Wages below local market levels

Contractual obligations ignored

Placement fees/Recruitment Fees

Accommodation - inadequate or high rent

Advocacy - workers lack of awareness of rights while in Canada

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Page 5: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Canada Line -$1.35 billion rapid transit project from Vancouver to Richmond/YVR

Tunnel construction - joint venture between SNC Lavalin and SELI Canada

Tunnel workers were being paid $1,000 (US net) per month, in compensation for 63 hour work weeks - equal to $3.73 Canadian per hour (net)

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Page 6: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

It is illegal to include accommodation, food, transportation or any benefit in a wage calculation

BC ESA – Sec. 20 (a) “An employer must pay wages in Canadian currency.”

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Page 7: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Golden Ears Bridge Project

Serbian TFWs employed with Baulex as a sub-contract to Billfinger-Berger

Broken promises◦ Failed to receive credit for overtime and overtime pay◦ Forced to pay their own airfare◦ Garnished wages for recruitment fees

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Page 8: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Federal regulations state that if a recruitment agency is used fees not be charged to the workers

Mexican Ironworkers - unable to successfully recoup $8,000 placement fee

Mexican Cement Finishers - Each paid $5,000 which was garnished off their cheques

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Page 9: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Mexican carpenter/formers – Paid $8,000 – garnished off his cheque

JadCan – Filipinos paid approximately $2,500 each (Golden Ears Bridge)

Baulex – Each paid $1,200

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Page 10: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Loan Sharks – Filipino TFWs had to take a loan from a bank to pay the recruitment fee ($2,500). (The bank was owned the labour broker)

Charged 50 percent interest on the loan.

Paid off the loan and interest in $400 installments garnished off each pay cheque.

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Page 11: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Airfare – Federal guidelines stipulate that TFW should not pay for their return airfare. In half the cases we’ve dealt with the worker pays their own

TFW’s often advised by employer that they can not seek other employment

If fired they will forfeit return airfare

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Page 12: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Metro Vancouver Water Diversion Project

Workers paid $900 each to employer. Housed in overcrowded basement suites (three to a suite). Suite rented out for less than $1,000

Jadcan - Golden Ears Bridge

Employees charged$800. After voting to become unionized, workers were given a choice to take the money and find their own accommodations

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Page 13: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Baulex – GoldenEars Bridge

Up to six workers in a crowded apartment

Each had been pressured to authorize the employer to garnish $600 per month

Rent for the apartment was $1,200

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Page 14: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Canada is a country that must respect labour standards and human rights.

The Labour movement is embarrassed and outraged by these examples of exploitation.

Vulnerable workers who are used as a source of cheap labour drive down skills, wages and working conditions.

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Page 15: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Labour has a duty to represent and protect the rights and dignity of our members.

A moral and social responsibility to represent the unorganized.

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Page 16: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Organize

TFWs have been successfully unionized and recognized by the LRB.

Employers currently arguing TFWs don’t have the right to unionize in the agricultural sector.

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Page 17: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Contacts to the ecumenical community

Working with other advocacy groups

Social connections (games, outings, translation services, medical needs, WCB advocacy, ESL classes)

UFCW centre for agricultural TFWs

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Page 18: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Labour Relations Board

◦ Unfair labour practices, collective bargaining, grievances against employer intimidations and other discipline, firing without cause

Employment Standards Complaints

◦ Third Party Authorizations allow us to file representative complaints

◦ IROs must report to us on investigation progress and findings

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Page 19: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Human Rights

SELI/SNC Lavalin Human Rights Complaint - won Tribunal ruling that employers can not discriminate based on the worker’s country of origin

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Page 20: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Avoid embarrassing headlines

We have well-established relationships and stakeholder participation at the federal level

We have built relationships with local and

national staff at HRSDC and CIC and the responsible provincial Ministries

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Page 21: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Facilitating media availability with TFWs who are often afraid and often need promise of anonymity

Press conferences, Rallies and protest demonstrations highlighting poor working conditions and treatment

Newsletters and magazines (Tradetalk is sent to 30,000)

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Page 22: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Domestic Political Pressure

◦ Meetings and submissions to Ministers and opposition M.P.s, MLAs.

◦ Presentations to Standing Committees (CIC).

◦ Presentations to Local Government.

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Page 23: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

International Pressure

◦ Visits by international labour leaders (from the TFWs home countries).

◦ Letters of support from international labour bodies to Canadian politicians.

◦ Complaints to UN Special Rapporteur on Migrant Workers (under auspices of International Declaration on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families).

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Page 24: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Employment Standards

Workers are asked to first try and resolve their complaint directly with their employer via self help kit.

Most workers have no idea who to complain to or are too intimidated to make a complaint.

Employers have made it clear they will be fired for complaining.

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Page 25: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Labour Relations Board

In direct contradiction to CIC and HRSDC the BC LRB has ruled that the employers' ‘Letter of Assignment’ (a requirement of the permit application process that promises to pay workers a set wage) is not a contract

The BC LRB says an employer can use one document to convince federal government that they are paying ‘prevailing wages,’ then, after the worker arrives in Canada, the employer can pressure the worker to sign a new inferior contract

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Page 26: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

BC Human Rights Tribunal

Recognized that employers can not discriminate on wages, accommodation, meals, based on country of origin (BCHRT 436, 2008, MacNaughton, Humphreys, Lyster).

www.bchrt.bc.ca

The decision rules that workers originating from a poor country can not be paid less than workers originating from a rich country. This would constitute discrimination based on country of origin.

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Page 27: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

HRSDC

At the Golden Ears Bridge, Canadian workers were laid-off due to a shortage of work before the same employer laid-off TFW employees.

Regional Office facilitated re-hire of Canadian immigrant employees. If the employer didn’t re-hire the Canadians, future LMOs would be assessed unfavourably given a non-compliance record.

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Page 28: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

HRSDC

After Baulex declared bankruptcy on the Golden Ears Bridge Project (employer unable to pay wages owed), HRSDC changed policy to recognize TFWs as eligible for Employment Insurance.

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Page 29: A BC Labour Perspective 1.  Abuse of Workers  Labour’s response  Governments’ Roles 2

Orientation◦ Knowing your rights is a first step to dealing with

vulnerability.

Monitoring

Enforcement

Advocacy◦ Independent safe havens means they can

exercise their rights.

JU/sm1000-09rep-ju-TFWcope 15