Ensuring fair and equal treatment for everyone who works in Canada.

For Canada’s unions, it’s a labour of love.

Hope for migrant workers

For today’s migrant workers, life in Canada can be a struggle. Many migrant workers face discrimination and dangerous work conditions on a daily basis.

By collaborating with migrant worker groups, including Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, Migrante Canada, and l’Association des travailleuses et travailleurs étrangers temporaires (ATTÉT), unions support initiatives that improve the lives of all workers, through education, awareness, and policy change. This past spring, unions worked with community and faith groups to hold a first-of-its-kind forum, Equal in Dignity – Equal in Rights, in Fredericton, NB.

“This forum gives me hope,” said one migrant worker participant. “We are so glad we came. We learned there are people who support us and who do not see us as nameless and faceless migrant workers who steal jobs from Canadians.”

Fairness for domestic workers

Knowing that your family is well cared for is essential for peace of mind. However, migrant caregivers taking care of Canadian children, aging loved ones and people with disabilities are often separated from their own families for years.

While caregivers can no longer be forced to live in the homes of their employers, they must put up with low wages, isolation and sometimes dangerous working conditions for two years before they can apply for the right to stay in Canada.

Canadian unions have been working with domestic workers’ groups for years to advocate for a pathway to permanent residency on arrival, labour legislation to protect these vulnerable workers, as well as access to training to maintain and enhance their skills.

Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA)

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union-Canada (UFCW Canada) has been an ally, advocate and champion for agriculture workers in Canada since 1980, winning enhanced rights, safety and voice in the workplace for some of Canada’s most exploited workers.

The Agriculture Workers Alliance is Canada’s largest association for agriculture workers, with a network of 10 help centres across Canada, where the rights of all farm workers come first – no matter where they come from. Since opening the first centre in 1992, UFCW Canada and the AWA have assisted tens of thousands of farm workers with abusive employers, unsafe housing and work conditions, Workers Compensation claims, parental leave benefits, as well as supporting the rights of agriculture workers to form a union.

More examples:

  • Several provincial federations of labour deliver health and safety training to migrant workers. For example, the BC Federation of Labour’s Health and Safety Centre trains hundreds of workers each year, in their first language. Participants learn about their legal protections, rights and responsibilities, hazard identification and the workers’ compensation system.
  • Migrant workers (sometimes including undocumented workers) are prevalent in the building trades. Unions like the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) work to ensure safety and fair treatment for all building trade workers, regardless of immigration status.
  • The B.C. Building Trades and the Labourers’ Union (Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union) Local 1611 supported 40 temporary foreign workers from Latin America who worked on the rapid transit Canada Line after they were discriminated against in wages, accommodation, meals and expenses compared to their European coworkers. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal eventually ordered the Canada Line builder companies to pay an award, including the salary and expense difference.
  • Canadian unions including Unifor, CUPE, NUPGE and UFCW are working with the Canadian Council for Refugees and many other related non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to advocate for policy change to protect migrant workers’ rights.
  • UFCW is campaigning to stop the blacklisting of migrant workers who choose to exercise their legal right to join a union while in Canada.

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