The Temporary Foreign Workers Association (TFWA) has created a confidential hotline to help workers get answers about their rights, both under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and on the job.
The association — a group started by Unifor and Migrante Canada, the Canadian chapter of a global alliance of over 100 organizations in more than 22 countries that advocates for the rights of Filipino migrant workers — announced the hotline on Jan. 12. The toll-free number, 1-888-366-0194, will provide information about legal entitlements, such as rates of pay, overtime and immigration requirements, to callers.
“In many sectors of the economy, employers have taken advantage of language barriers and other challenges to exploit foreign workers,” Unifor contended in a statement. “Temporary foreign workers have rights just like Canadian workers, and we intend to ensure that they are enforced across the country,” added Wally Ewanicke, an organizer with Unifor, in the statement. “The new hotline is a confidential resource for workers who need answers about their rights at work.”
Marco Luciano, a spokesperson for Migrante Canada, argued that TFWs deserve dignity and respect in the workplace, just like any other worker. “If they are good enough to work in Canada, they are good enough to stay,” Luciano said about the path to immigration sought by many foreign workers. “There is no such thing as disposable labour.”
The announcement of the hotline came on the heels of a report from the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which said that some of the work on Edmonton’s new downtown arena was being done by TFWs from the U.S., even though hundreds of qualified Canadian ironworkers were available.
Construction on Rogers Place, a 20,000-seat venue that is set to become the new home of the Edmonton Oilers in 2016, began last March. AFL president Gil McGowan said that contracts to build several portions of Edmonton’s Arena District were awarded to local firms that employ Canadian workers, but that Rogers’ Place was given to an outside firm.
McGowan said that members of the AFL, Ironworkers Local 720 — which has 300 qualified ironworkers on the “jobs list at the hiring hall a few blocks from the arena’s location” — and the Edmonton and District Labour Council held a protest in Edmonton on Jan. 15. He said that trades organizations are also petitioning the federal government to rescind any TFW permits granted for the project.