The situation of foreign temporary workers in Canada is increasingly troublesome. Canadian law requires employers to provide most of the same rights to foreign workers as to resident workers .
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However, not every employer apparently implements these laws and regulations consistently, according to an article from the Vancouver webpage, Straight.com.
Carlito Pablo points out that the rights of many foreign workers to be in Canada depends on their continued relationship with the employer who applied for their immigration permit. This may make foreign workers feel bound to this one employer.
This, in turn, has the effect of reducing workers’ mobility and empowerment. If they wish to change employers, whether to escape abusive treatment, or to find more remunerative work, they must first go through their employer, complete paperwork, and interact with the government bureaucracy.
Only after making application to the government can they, perhaps, seek to obtain another job in Canada. This situation, Pablo asserts, exposes foreign workers to natimistreatment and exploitation, based on a report issued by the West Coast Domestic Workers Association.
Any solution to these problems could face pushback pressure from businesses that benefit from the current situation.
The presence and employment of foreign workers makes some Canadians resentful to begin with because they feel that these foreign workers are taking jobs that would otherwise be available to permanent Canadian residents .
The dependence of foreign workers on an exclusive relationship with one employer generates, according to Judy Fudge, as quoted in the report by Adriana Reitzler of the West Coast Domestic Workers Association, a situation of employment and immigration status precariousness.
As Fudge expresses it, there is a “nexus between precarious immigration status and precarious employment status, in which the regulations used to control migration ensure[s] (sic) [that] temporary foreign workers are not secure in their employment and thus impact[s] their ability to demand decent wages, working and living conditions, and the right to organize.”
Reitzler goes on to contend that these circumstances actually impact the Canadian workplace generally, “creating a downward pressure on employment standards” .
The overall obligation of employers to foreign workers is theoretically the same as for Canadian resident workers. They are required to pay for all work done, ensuring workplace safety, and to not confiscate passports or work permits.
Additionally, an employer must never prevent, or take retribution against, an employee for contacting an employment standards agency or entity .
While rules governing employer obligations to foreign workers do vary from one province to another , they are comprehensive, as written, with the exception of providing unemployment compensation.
For example, “Employers must provide TFW [Temporary Foreign Workers] with the same wages and benefits as those provided to their Canadian citizen and permanent resident employees working in the same occupation…[and the same] wage rate as established under the collective bargaining agreement.” .
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However, because of the above noted sense of constraint, foreign workers may feel powerless to take action to protect themselves or better their circumstances.
One problem is that regulations may require an initial complaint to the employer; another is recent cuts to enforcement staffs in some provinces .
Honestly acknowledging the key role of Canada’s foreign workers could move the country towards increasing their just treatment.
If Canadians covet these jobs at the currently offered wages (theoretically governed by each province’s minimum wage standards), they, themselves, could apply.
The anecdotal experience of this writer, drawn from garden weeding, and visiting pick-your-own orchards, is that agricultural tasks are exhausting.
Canadians might do better to express appreciation for this hard work, and support any legislative effort to increase the protection of foreign workers from employer abuse, and their job mobility.
Additionally, supporting the enforcement of employment standards for foreign workers may have the halo effect of improving compliance across the entire workplace.
Alberta Federation of Labour. “Temporary Foreign Worker Program Displacing Canadians :Alberta Federation of Labour blasts Harper for helping employers put Canadians out of work at Husky Sunrise project.” 10 October 2013. Alberta Federation of Labour. Web.
Canada International. “Worker Protection In Canada.” 2013. Canada International. Web.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada. “Understand your rights – Temporary foreign workers.” 2013. Government of Canada. Web.
Commission for Labor Cooperation. “Foreign Workers Guide to Labour and Employment Laws.” 2013. Commission for Labor Cooperation. Web.
Government of Canada. “Hiring Seasonal Agricultural Workers.” 2013. Employment and Social Development Canada. Web.
Pablo, Carlito. “Migrant workers in Canada exploited because of restricted mobility: new report.” 2013. Straight.com. Web.
Reitzler, Adriana. “Access to Justice for Migrant Workers in British Columbia.” 30 July 2013. West Coast Domestic Workers Association. Web.