Migrant workers are part of our communities, where they live, work, shop and build relationships. Migrant workers are not “foreigners”, they are part of Ontario’s work force, and they are part of our labour market. Their participation in our decent work movement is crucial to our ability to win.
Unfortunately, bad employers and some journalists have pitted migrant workers against unemployed and underemployed Ontario workers. Instead of fighting at the bottom of the barrel for bad jobs, we must unite to increase rights for everyone and improve all our working conditions.
Migrant workers work some of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in Ontario, with some of the lowest wages and protections.Most migrant workers are in jobs that they have done for generations. Domestic workers have been coming to Canada since the 1800s, and this is the 50th year of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. This isn’t about a short-term labour shortage, migrant work is permanent, and it is time they have the same rights as everyone else.
It’s no accident that many of the industries that are primarily made up of migrant workers are exempted from the Employment Standards Act. As a result, migrant workers are denied basic protections under the law, such as minimum wages, hours of work and more. When one industry is exempted from providing basic minimum standards, other employers want similar exemptions and loopholes.
This helps explain why today less than 25% of all workers are fully protected by the minimum standards in the ESA. This is a vivid example of how an injury to one becomes and injury to all.
The vast majority of Ontarians agree that we need rules that protect us all. We need specific changes in Ontario for migrant workers so that they can raise their voice and get the rights they deserve.
The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change has identified the following needed changes to Ontario’s labour laws that Fight for 15 and Fairness is supporting:
1. Migrant workers deserve the same rights as everyone else. There should be no special rules and exemptions by occupation.
2. Labour laws must be proactively enforced and community members must be able to complain about bad bosses.
3. Migrant workers need special anti-reprisal protections including their staying in the country while their complaints are being processed.
4. Agriculture workers and Caregivers must be able to unionize and bargain collectively and sectorally.
5. There should be no fees for work. Recruiters need to be licensed and migrant worker employers registered. These registries need to be public. Employers and recruiters need to be jointly financially liable for all fees paid to work by migrant workers. Joint liability must include any fees paid at any point in recruitment process.
At universities and colleges across Ontario, students, campus workers and faculty members have come together to Fight for $15 and Fairness. Will you join? Show your support by signing the letter at FairnessNow.ca.
Many students today are forced to juggle work and school while struggling with low wages and unpredictable schedules. At the same time, the custodial and food service workers on campuses, teaching assistants, and faculty are also faced with increasingly precarious working conditions. This is why in over 14 post-secondary institutions in Ontario we are organizing to win $15 & Fairness for all.
Provincial Campus Network
There is an incredible effort underway on campuses across Ontario to build a strong movement for decent work. Through petitioning, class talks, forums, and coordinated days of action, students have been talking about the links between poverty, student debt, quality education and decent jobs.
In February 2017, multiple campuses participated in a province-wide Valentine’s Day of Action to call attention to the importance of the labour law review. Since then, many campus chapters have organized participatory activities, such as the “Wall of Wages,” to highlight the widening income gap. In September 2017, over 100 students, faculty and campus workers gathered at the first-ever $15 and Fairness Provincial Campus Assembly to share knowledge, discuss strategy and plan next steps.
Bargaining $15 & Fairness
Every campus should be a $15 & Fairness campus! Sadly, many post-secondary institutions in Ontario choose to rely on short-term, precarious jobs instead of investing in good jobs. But collectively, we have the power to reverse this trend.
In early 2017, food service workers at York University represented by UNITE HERE Local 75 went on strike to demand fair wages and working conditions, and an end to workplace harassment, racism and Islamophobia. Student, staff and faculty groups on campus mobilized, in coordination with the province-wide $15 & Fairness network, to let the administration know that food service workers were not alone. Within a week, the workers won a fair deal, including a $15 starting wage, health and dental coverage for full-time and part-time positions, and more! Solidarity works -- from supporting college faculty bargaining for equal pay to food service workers, let’s continue the fight for $15 & Fairness on campuses.
Taking on the Big Business Lobby
FairnessNow.ca is a new initiative launched by the Fight for $15 and Fairness Provincial Campus Network that calls on post-secondary institutions to distance themselves from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce—the foremost business lobby group against a $15 minimum wage and decent work.
As members of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and its local affiliates, universities and colleges should no longer allow corporate lobbyists to speak in their name against the interests of the vast majority of Ontarians. With decades of peer-reviewed research showing the economic and social benefits of a $15 minimum wage and decent work practices, it is unacceptable for any college or university to be a part of the Chamber’s corporate lobby campaign. Students, staff, faculty and community members can show their support for FairnessNow.ca by signing the letter online.
Join the Fight for $15 and Fairness Provincial Campus Network and be a part of the organizing! Sign up to get updates, find out if there is an active group on your campus, and learn how you can get involved
Bad jobs make us sick. This is why hundreds of physicians, nurses, support workers, researchers and health promoters from across Ontario are organizing for $15 & Fairness as members of the Decent Work and Health Network (DWHN).
Health providers know that decent jobs are a crucial remedy for the health of Ontarians and our health care system. They know because they see the impact of bad jobs in emergency rooms and community health centres on a daily basis. Patients who struggle to fill their prescriptions due to insufficient incomes, or get the medical attention they need in a timely manner in the absence of legislated sick days, suffer because of inadequate labour laws.
Decent Work and Health Network
The DWHN was formed in 2014 by Health Providers Against Poverty and the Fight for $15 & Fairness to bring health evidence into the public conversation taking place during the provincial government’s review of outdated labour laws. In just one year, the network grew to expand over a thousand health providers who called for at least 7 legislated paid sick days for all workers, as well as the elimination of the doctor’s note requirement.
Health Providers in Action
Since then, network members have advocated for significant labour law reforms to ensure decent work for all and improve health outcomes in Ontario. This also meant addressing the root causes of low wages, unstable schedules with no guarantee of hours, and the stress that comes from juggling multiple jobs. To this end, health providers have made presentations at government consultations, met with Members of the Provincial Parliament, ran lectures and workshops for health workers and students, organized public outreach actions, participated in mass rallies, written letters to newspapers and given dozens of interviews to media outlets.
We Organize, We Win
The persistent organizing of the Decent Work and Health Network as part of the $15 & Fairness movement led to historic victories recently. Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which got adopted in November 2017, will introduce important labour law reforms. These include: 10 personal emergency days for all, 2 of which will be paid, $15 minimum wage legislation, and provisions to ensure equal pay for equal work as well as fair schedules (learn more here). But we know that the fight is not over!
In the coming months, health providers will continue mobilizing to make sure that patients know about these new rights have the supports they need to access them. These reforms are just the beginning of the changes needed to make jobs decent and our communities healthy.