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
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
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)
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.”
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Labour has a duty to represent and protect the rights and dignity of our members.
A moral and social responsibility to represent the unorganized.
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.
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
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
SELI/SNC Lavalin Human Rights Complaint - won Tribunal ruling that employers can not discriminate based on the worker’s country of origin
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
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)
Domestic Political Pressure
◦ Meetings and submissions to Ministers and opposition M.P.s, MLAs.
◦ Presentations to Standing Committees (CIC).
◦ Presentations to Local Government.
◦ 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).
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
Orientation◦ Knowing your rights is a first step to dealing with