The following is a statement from Justicia for Migrant Workers with respect to the current COVID-19 pandemic and other issues of concern to temporary foreign workers:
Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is urgently demanding action from both the Ontario government and the government of Canada with respect to the dignity of migrant workers.
For these workers currently in Canada, housing conditions are rife for potential outbreaks of COVID-19 and we urgently demand answers to what steps both levels of government will take to ensure that this pandemic does not disportionately impact marginalized communities.
With respect to healthcare, access should be provided to all. COVID-19 does not discriminate between those who have and do not have health cards.Waiting period and health card requirements should be waived immediately and no worker should be terminated or deported for falling ill at work because of the current pandemic.
Access to Employment Insurance (EI) must protect all workers. We urge you to consider specific protections for all temporary foreign workers, including:
- Open permits and expedited visa and lmia process so that laid off or terminated migrant workers can seek other work in agriculture or other industries;
Implementation of action teams to assist vulnerable workers in accessing EI including services in their own language;
- Removing barriers to access to learning and educational opportunities provided by the EI fund;
- And ensuring that all migrants with 900 series SIN numbers have access to both regular and special benefits both here in Canada and their home country.
For workers who have been employed in Canada but are being denied the ability to return to work, EI funds should be made available to provide income support.
At the provincial level, a minimum of 14 paid sick days should be implemented for all workers. Workers must also be provided proper rest periods and breaks and other protections that are enshrined under provincial employment standard provisions.
Furthermore, employers must cover the cost for safety equipment and hygiene products to protect workers from infection. Ministry of Labour inspectors should be undertaking unannounced proactive inspections in the interest of protecting the well being of the most vulnerable members of our workforce and Public Health should step in to provide the necessary support.
Echoing the words of Dr. Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of the World Health Organization, “we can not forget migrants, we can not forget undocumented workers… the only way to beat (coronavirus) is to leave no one behind… we need to avoid exclusions as we are (all) in this together.”
Pandemics always have a human face. Our concern is that migrant workers may be vilified and criminalized as a result of COVID-19. We strongly condemn any attempts to implement policies that negatively impact migrant workers across Canada.