Changes must be made to protect foreign temporary workers from unscrupulous recruiters and employers, says group that represents domestic workers
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Lack of enforcement in B.C. fosters
Changes must be made to protect foreign temporary
workers from unscrupulous recruiters and employers,
says group that represents domestic workers
By Denise Ryan, Vancouver Sun
August 13, 2013
Migrant workers grab a quick lunch
beside the blueberry bushes they are
picking from in the Fraser Valley.
Photograph by: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun
The foreign workers picking this year’s bumper cro
p of blueberries, minding B.C. babies,
flipping burgers and serving coffee are part of a ballooning “flexible and impermanent
workforce” that don’t share the same rights as Canadians says a new report.
The lack of effective
enforcement of legal regulations makes foreign workers particularly
vulnerable, says the report. The report, Access to Justice for Migrant Workers in B.C.,
was presented by the West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association at an SFU discussion
“In recent years we’ve seen a really sharp increase in the number of other temporary
foreign workers coming into our offices for help,” said Ai Li Lim, staff lawyer and
executive director of the association, which works predominantly with live-in care workers.
Lim said the number of temporary foreign workers in B.C. has nearly doubled in the past
7 years and they in agriculture, the service industry, mining and other sectors.
According to statistics from the Canadian Labour Congress, B.C. had close to 70,000
temporary foreign workers in 2011.
Lucy Luna, the Agricultural Workers Alliance coordinator, spoke at Saturday’s event.
She said temporary foreign workers have little access to help and often fear retaliation
from employers when problems on the job occur.
Luna said last summer two berry pickers that were unable to resolve an issue were told by
their employer that they weren’t allowed to quit their jobs.
“The employer refused to accept their quitting, refused to pay their return ticket. They
were being held ho
stage,” said Luna.
She brought a complaint to Service Canada, a federal agency.
“Service Canada said we can accept the complaint but we can’t enforce the contract.”
She then went to the police with the workers, who told them they couldn’t help with a
labour issue. Border Services was very kind, said Luna, but also unable to help.
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