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December 16, 2014

OFL STATEMENT
December 16, 2014

OFL Calls for a Migrant Workers’ Bill of Rights to End Exploitation

OFL Statement for December 18, 2014 International Migrants Day

“Government raids, recruiter corruption, employer exploitation, poverty wages, squalid conditions, treacherous work, harassment, intimidation, gender discrimination and threats of deportation. These are just a few of the dangers threatening migrant workers in Canada,” said OFL President Sid Ryan. “Canada’s failure to protect the migrant workers who help drive our economy has created the conditions of exploitation for the most vulnerable of people.”

Canada’s shameful treatment of migrant workers made headlines throughout 2014, after border services raids, workplace fatalities and recruiter abuse attracted public exposure of the precarious and hidden lives of Canada’s migrant workers. This December 18, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is recognizing International Migrants Day by calling on Ontario’s Liberal government to finally implement a Migrant Workers’ Bill of Rights to set a national example and put an end to exploitation and abuse.

Established in 1990 through the United Nations International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, December 18 is celebrated around the world as International Migrants Day. This day is an important opportunity to promote the labour rights, human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, many of whom are working internationally to overcome poverty, social conflict, human rights abuses and other forms of adversity to create a better life for their families.

“At a time when Canadians have expressed outrage at profitable mega-companies like Tim Hortons, McDonalds, Walmart and Canadian Tire for exploiting the foreign workers to drive down wages and fatten their bottom lines, Harper has created new restrictions that will impact the migrant workers more than employers,” said Ryan. “The real issue is that migrant labour is being used as a permanent replacement for meaningful immigration reform. If these workers are good enough to work in Canada, they are good enough to stay.”

Federal changes implemented this year, including a cap on the number of migrant workers coming to Canada through the low-wage stream and increased fees for the use of the program, will only preserve the racism and exploitation created by the Temporary Foreign Workers’ Program (TFWP). Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reduced access to citizenship and greatly increased the number of migrant and undocumented workers in Canada.

Under the Harper government’s watch, the number of migrant workers coming to Canada has grown dramatically and Canada’s intake of migrant workers is vastly outpacing the number of economic immigrants. Data released last year by Citizenship and Immigration Canada reveals that the 250,000 permanent residents entering Canada on an annual basis is now being surpassed by over 280,000 migrant workers. In Ontario, this has meant that in 2012, only 49,000 economic immigrants were granted permanent residency, while over 70,000 migrant workers were given temporary work permits. This trend reflects a shift in immigration policy away from a model favouring permanent residency, which offers equal access to legal rights and a path to citizenship, to a heavy reliance on migrant workers who face low wages, uncertain immigration status and limited access to legal and labour rights.

This December 18, the OFL is celebrating the valuable contribution that migrant workers and their families make to Canadian society by calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne to implement a Migrant Workers’ Bill of Rights that would entrench labour protections and human rights for all migrant workers, including access to permanent residence and citizenship rights, union protection, health care benefits and a ban on recruitment fees and exploitation. The OFL continues to work with community partners to build solidarity with other social movements in a common struggle for a more humane and inclusive Canada.

Read the full Bill of Rights at: http://beta.floating-point.com/ofl/wp-content/uploads/2013.08-MigrantWorkers-Report.pdf

“Ontario’s labour movement is demanding respect for the rights of migrant workers, including the adoption, monitoring and enforcement of strong labour law protections and human rights legislation,” said Ryan. “Precarious, temporary and vulnerable working conditions cannot be tolerated for any worker, or else they risk becoming the norm for every worker. By adopting a Bill of Rights for Migrant Workers, Ontario could promote immigration, not exploitation.”

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour. Follow OFL President Sid Ryan on Twitter @SidRyan_OFL

For further information:

Joel Duff, OFL Communications Director: 416-707-0349 (cell) or jduff@ofl.ca *ENG/FRENCH*

COPE 343

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