Exploited Filipino migrant workers get support from Canadian Labour Congress
OTTAWA-The Canadian Labour Congress is increasingly concerned about the well-being and whereabouts of a number of Filipino migrant workers who recently came to Ontario under the federal government’s Foreign Workers Program.
“This program fails these workers and will damage the reputation of all Canadians,” says Hassan Yussuff, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress. “In the case of these Filipino workers, there are so many allegations that we, at the Canadian Labour Congress, are demanding a formal investigation by the federal government’s department that is supposed to care about these workers when they are in Canada,” explains Hassan Yussuff.
The case may involve breach of contract, withholding of pay and excessive recruitment fees, according to the letter addressed to the director of the Foreign Workers Program of the Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). (The full text of the letter is available on the Canadian Labour Congress web site at canadianlabour.ca). The letter explains:
“We have learned these workers paid a substantial sum of money to a labour broker to work as either welders or plumbers. However, upon arrival in Canada, the broker appears to have confiscated important personal documents such as passports and work permits and then delivered the workers to a workplace where they were given jobs not consistent with what they had been contracted to provide.”
“It is our understanding these workers were put to work doing tasks different than their qualifications and expectations, and their wages were withheld. When the workers eventually did receive partial pay, it was considerably less than the wage levels that had motivated them to come to Canada in the first place.”
Over the last two years, the Canadian Labour Congress and its affiliated unions have made numerous representations to the federal government about the failings of the Foreign Workers Program without any regard for effective compliance or enforcement of Canadian workplace laws and standards.
“This program fails the workers because it keeps them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It fails Canadians because it will give us a bad reputation: when these workers will go back home they will, legitimately, discourage other workers from coming to this country.”
“If these workers are good enough to work in Canada, we must welcome them as immigrants, as permanent residents, with all the rights and protections of our laws,” says Yussuff.
This is why the letter to HRSDC asks:
* what investigative steps and findings will be taken (or are currently in progress) by government’s departments and agencies with regard to this case?
* what steps are being taken to identify and pursue the labour brokers, contractors and employers implicated to retrieve wages and usurious processing and administrative fees paid by these workers?
* and what steps will be taken to prosecute the individuals and employers involved in this case?
The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 136 district labour councils. Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca
Jean Wolff, Communications, 613-526-7431 and 613-878-6040
Karl Flecker, Anti-Racism and Human Rights, 613-614-7065