Migrant workers demand improved rights
A new Canada-wide migrant workers coalition is pushing for changes to immigration rules
A new Canada-wide coalition of migrant workers is calling on the incoming Liberal government in Ottawa to end the practice of tying temporary foreign workers to their employers.
Representatives from four Island groups spoke at a news conference in Charlottetown Wednesday about what they say is "discrimination against migrant workers."
It opens the door for abuse, lower salaries and degraded work conditions for all workers.- Josie Baker, Cooper Institute
It's part of a nation-wide campaign called MoVE (Mobility, Voice, and Equality for Migrant Workers) by the Coalition for Migrant Workers Rights.
Work permits too restrictive
Baker said about 1,000 temporary foreign workers employed as caregivers and seasonal agricultural workers on P.E.I. have work permits that restrict them to working for a specific employer.
- P.E.I. leads way with temporary foreign workers
- Labour shortage expected from temporary foreign worker rules
"When you have policies that in essence hold part of the workforce as captive to one employer, it opens the door for abuse, lower salaries and degraded work conditions for all workers," said Baker.
Raymundo Yu and his wife, who came to PEI 26 years ago from the Phillipines, came to find out how they can help.
"Some we knew have experienced some difficulty in the work environment, and we don't know who to reach out [to]," said Yu.
"At one point, one person is sleeping in the basement with dirt finish ... And one person is working five o'clock in the afternoon and come home, maybe three o'clock in the morning," said Yu.
Calling for changes
The coalition called for changes to federal legislation, including:
- Making it easier for migrant workers to move between jobs.
- A transition from tied work permits to open work permits.
- Removing four-year limits on work permits.
- Permanent resident status upon arrival for migrant workers.
'Fair if they want to move here'
Craig Walsh with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which is part of the coalition, said he'd like to see workers move here permanently and bring their families.
"If they're coming and they're paying taxes and they're paying EI I think they should get the same rights as everyone else who works here," said Walsh.
"I think it's fair if they want to move here," said Robert Godfrey with the PEI Federation of Agriculture.
"We are hopeful the new administration under Mr. Trudeau, with 32 government MPs from the Atlantic region, will be more willing and open to discuss the fair and equitable use of the program (for employees and employers) in this region, and across the country," added the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association in a written release.
The group's next step is to try to arrange meetings between P.E.I.'s migrant workers and all four Island MPs.
with files from Krystalle Ramlakhan