Feb 28, 2014

Plight of temporary foreign workers brought to light

BURNABY - CUPE members were among those who came to learn about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program at the educational forum and monthly New Westminster and District Labour Council meeting on Wednesday.  Jessie Uppal, United Steelworkers District 3, and Felix Martinez, who is working to organize temporary agricultural workers, shared their perspectives and talked about widespread abuses.

Martinez talked about daily life for Mexican temporary agricultural workers. Their government set standards and guidelines such as requiring only 80 square feet per person for living accommodations, with one bathroom for 10 workers.  That means ten workers could end up living in an 800 square foot apartment.

Workers must be married and have children to qualify for the program. An employer can report a worker as AWOL if they don’t hear from them in 48 hours. And it’s easy for an employer to cancel a contract.

Migrant workers:

  • pay taxes
  • contribute to UI and pension
  • mostly don’t collect any of it
  • have no path to citizenship

“These workers bring a lot here,” says Martinez. “But basically they are slaves.”

Uppal gave an historical perspective and outlined the B.C. experience with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The Temporary Worker Program is impacting workplaces across Canada. We need policy changes so that Canada stops exploiting workers from third-world countries.

Unions are in the forefront of exposing flaws in the system, addressing inequities, and working to protect the interest of all workers.




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