Harper Government Deals Another Blow to Vulnerable Migrant Workers

TORONTO, ONTARIO — (Marketwire) — 12/10/12 — Some of the most vulnerable workers in Canada have been once again viciously attacked by the Harper government which summarily announced that seasonal migrant workers will no longer have key coverage under Employment Insurance (EI), in spite of the fact that migrant agriculture workers alone pay approximately $25 million annually into the EI fund.

Diane Finely, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development buried the announcement of the change in regulations in a somewhat clandestine press release; stripping away parental leave – a core EI benefit for seasonal migrant workers that other workers receive.

“This is the Great Tory Ripoff of migrant workers. It is blatant discrimination and an abuse of some of the most vulnerable workers in Canada,” says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada. “The Tory Regime in Ottawa has again taken advantage of migrant workers simply because they think they can. With no notice of these changes to migrant workers and no right to appeal, this is an act of preying on the vulnerable and erasing their right to benefits that they continue to pay for through a ransom of millions in EI premiums.”

With the new change in EI regulations, migrant workers will continue to be forced to pay into program at the same rate as Canadian workers and permanent residents, but will now been almost completely barred from receiving benefits from the same program.

“The federal government is taking advantage of temporary foreign workers simply because it can,” says Hanley, the leader of Canada’s largest-private sector union. “Migrant workers have paid hundreds of millions of dollars, like working Canadians, into the EI fund for decades and are now being excluded from receiving core EI parental benefits. It’s like being forced to buy mandatory auto insurance, but you are excluded from coverage.”

“It is grossly unfair, not in keeping with Canadian values, and the latest chapter to the Harper government’s shameful hammering of temporary foreign workers – the same government that allows companies to pay temporary foreign workers 15% less than Canadians, and continues to turn a blind eye to the unsafe working and housing conditions that many of these workers are dropped into,” says the UFCW Canada leader.

UFCW Canada is Canada’s largest private-sector union with more than 250,000 members across Canada. For more than two decades has led the campaign for enhanced labour, workplace and safety rights for migrant workers. In association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA), UFCW Canada also operates ten AWA centres across the country to serve domestic and seasonal agriculture workers.