There are an estimated 230 million migrant workers now circulating around the world, and B.C., with over 70,000 temporary foreign workers in our communities, is second only to Ontario.
Traditionally a country of permanent immigration, we are now a country and province where migrant workers are brought in on a temporary basis. Many of them live and work in precarious conditions in our province. A number of factors open the door to the abuse of their rights. To address them, the Coalition for Migrant Workers Rights Canada, CMWRC, was formed last month.
The CMWRC is a coalition of migrant worker community groups, academics, churches, unions and advocates from other sectors. It’s a unified voice of migrant workers in Canada. Its aim is to rebuild the immigration system to ensure basic dignity and fairness for everyone. Among its first actions is to call for the end of the discriminatory practice of tying migrant workers to specific employers. They are the only workers in Canada whose jobs are tied to one specific employer, one specific address.
They’re not free to circulate in the labour market, and their temporary immigration status makes them disposable. Addressing labour demands through a disposable work force creates a two-tier society and a secondary labour market, with the effect of driving down wages because these workers are compelled, for fear of deportation, to accept pay and conditions that citizens can refuse.
They also call for the transition towards a single-tier immigration system based on permanency and family reunification. These workers are vulnerable to exploitation because of the precariousness of their status, and these practices lower standards for everyone in the labour market.
The distortion of B.C.’s labour market also creates a secondary tier of TFWs with no labour mobility. These workers remain in the shadows of our society. In addition, temporary foreign workers are exposed to predatory practices and are paying thousands of dollars in illegal recruitment fees to work in minimum wage jobs in B.C. B.C. needs to put an end to these violations.
We need to ensure there is a registration regime for employees’ recruiters, to ensure proactive enforcement of employment labour standards and to ensure all workers in B.C. have access to justice and are free of exploitation.