IWC-CTI

Events

Historic legal victory for migrant workers’ right to employment insurance

Press release

 

Immigrant Workers Centre, Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal, Association of Progressive Jurists (AJP)

 

Montreal May 24, 2019

 

On May 10th, 2019, the Tax Court of Canada made a historic ruling in recognizing that temporary foreign workers can be eligible to receive employment insurance (EI) benefits, even if they have worked without a valid work permit.

 

Accompanied by the Immigrant Workers Centre, a group of approximately 18 temporary foreign workers from Guatemala appealed a decision by the Tax Court of Canada which refused to recognize that their employment was insurable under Canadian law.

 

In fact, these workers, recruited through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program were victims of fraud perpetrated by several companies in Quebec. Those companies deceived them by telling them that they could work for different employers than the one which originally hired them. However, this goes against the law.

 

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) considered that the hours they had worked were not insurable, since their work permits didn’t allow them to be employed by other companies. The CRA has systematically excluded a considerable number of unemployed migrant workers under the pretext that their employment wasn’t covered by a work permit. This exclusion exacerbates a situation of vulnerability.

 

In this precedent setting ruling, the Tax Court of Canada concluded that a work can be insurable according to the Employment Insurance Act, even if hours worked were the result of an employment undertaken without a valid work permit. According to the 48 page ruling, the CRA’s practice violates the Employment Insurance Act.

 

It considers that the prohibition to work without valid permit doesn’t necessarily imply that workers are excluded from EI, given the state’s obligation to guarantee access for all workers to public social services. As a result, the Court considers it in the public interest to recognize the important contribution of migrant workers to the Canadian economy and that it’s unacceptable to systematically exclude them.

 

The Court noted that the obligation placed on foreign workers to have a work permit in Canada is rooted historically in prioritizing Canadian citizens in labour markets. Nevertheless, in its analysis, the Court found that in the current context, “its obvious that thousands of temporary agricultural workers don’t represent a threat or obstacle to the rights of Canadian workers.”

 

The Immigrant Workers Centre, Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal and the Association of Progressive Jurists (AJP) want to seize this opportunity to highlight this important step forward for migrant worker rights.

 

Viviana Medina, an organizer with the IWC, said: “This historic decision doesn’t just mean justice for this group of Guatemalan workers, but also for thousands of temporary workers for whom access to social protection and labour rights is systematically denied. We also hope that this decision which emanates from a federal court obliges the Minister of Public Security to recognize that interdiction measures, which prohibit this group of workers from returning to Canada, because they worked without a work permit, are unfounded, is ridiculous and unacceptable.”

 

Jérémie Dhavernas, organizer from Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal, says: “It’s incredible to have to go to the Tax Court of Canada to establish a right that should already be evident. Since 1990, the Canadian state has systematically violated the rights of workers to EI, including migrants and non-migrants. We are pleased with this victory, which could possibly help in other struggles to reduce abuses suffered by migrant workers.”

 

Mr Richard-Alexandre Laniel, the workers’ lawyer and director of the AJP, affirms: “All workers, regardless of their immigration status and national origin, should have the right to state services for social protection. This ruling is even more important since it reverses a line of jurisprudence which systematically excludes temporary foreign workers without a valid work permit from EI benefits.”

 

The people below, as well as one member of the group who participated in this legal process, are available for interviews.

 

-30-

 

Media contacts:
-Richard-Alexandre Laniel, Association of Progressive Jurists: 514 690 2988
-Viviana Medina, Immigrant Workers Centre: 514 342 2111
-Jérémie Dhavernas, Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal : 514 271-4800

What’s Wrong with Rights? Social movements, law and liberal imaginations

Radha D’Souza in conversation
with
Dolores Chew (CERAS)
Devlin Kuyek (GRAIN)
Aziz Choudry (Immigrant Workers Centre/McGill University)

 

18H30, Wednesday 2 MayImmigrant Workers Centre 110-4755 Avenue Van Horne
Metro Plamondon (Plamondon exit)

 

Radha D’Souza has worked as an organizer and lawyer for labour movements, democratic rights and social movements in the Asia Pacific region. As a legal scholar, she has written extensively on the politics, human rights and social justice issues in non-Western countries. Her latest book, What’s Wrong with Rights? was released by Pluto Press in January 2018. She is a Reader in Law at the University of Westminster and is currently a visiting scholar at McGill University’s Law Faculty.

 

Dolores Chew is a founding member of the South Asian Women’s Community Centre and of the March 8thCommittee of Women of Diverse Origins. She is also a member of CERAS, teaches history and humanities at Marianopolis College and is a Research Associate at Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute.

 

Devlin Kuyek is a Montreal-based researcher and activist with GRAIN (www.grain.org), a small international organization based in Barcelona that works with social movements around the world to support peasant agriculture and food sovereignty.

 

Aziz Choudry is associate professor and Canada Research Chair in social movement learning and knowledge production in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University, and visiting professor at the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, University of Johannesburg. He serves on the board of the Immigrant Workers Centre, Montreal.

Gathering for May Day 2018!

Organized by the Coalition against Precarious Work

in front of the Labour Standards Commission
500 Rene-Levesque West , Montreal
Tuesday May 1st @ 5pm-6pm

 

This May 1st, the Coalition Against Precarious Work (Pinay, Immigrant Workers Centre, Migrant Workers Association of Quebec, Temporary Agency Workers Association and Mexican United for  Regularization) will hold a gathering in front of the CNESST on 500 Rene Lévesque between 5pm and 6pm. The rally will highlight the plight of immigrant workers in Quebec and will demand that the Employment and Labour Ministries to do more to protect the rights of precarious workers.

 

There will be a short program with speeches from different organizations and some cultural and street theater presentations.  Please come out to support a May 1st celebration that is inclusive of immigrant workers.

 

+++++

 

OTHER ACTIONS ON MAY 1 IN MONTREAL

Gathering with food and speeches at 2:30 pm at Parc Metro. Departure of the neighborhood demonstration at 16H00.
Bouffe contre le fascisme / Food Against Fascism – Montréal is in charge of food !

Follow-up of CLAC anti-capitalist protest in downtown Montreal.

As workers, unemployed, students and tenants, our best defense against those who exploit and abuse us is solidarity. That is why the Industrial Workers of the World (SITT-IWW Montreal) invites you to gather and fight together in the Parc-Extension on May 1st.

Our struggles are multiplying on several fronts at the same time. Just like the attacks on us. Strikes and lockouts are muted by the power of the courts, the public sector privatizes and burns its employees, our wages stagnate while our rents increase, racist speeches become commonplace to the delight of the ruling class. Holding the G7 paralyzes a complete region for wealth and power to move the planet. And all that, while bosses and politicians share the profits.

But no matter what, we fight! Community groups take to the streets to denounce social inequalities. Tenants from working-class neighborhoods are mobilizing against gentrification. Women denounce and take public space with #MeToo. Anti-racist solidarity networks are multiplying to counter the rise of the extreme right. Nurses say, “Enough is enough!” And refusal to run out in silence. The most precarious workers are organizing and solidarity is rising.

We are not as isolated as bosses and politicians want to imply. We are not just pawns that will vote and watch the boss decide our fate. We fight to make ourselves heard. And that’s why we must go beyond corporatism, stand together and make the bridge between our struggles, that’s our strength!

It is with this spirit of solidarity that the SITT-IWW Montréal invite you to demonstrate on Tuesday, May 1st, in the Parc-Extension neighborhood, on the occasion of International Workers’ Day, for the whole of the scander: WE ARE NOT ALONE!

 

iwc_cti@yahoo.com
(514)342-2111
www.iwc-cti.ca

Help us Keep the Immigrant Workers Centre open

The Immigrant Workers Centre has experienced one of it busiest years as more and more courageous workers, sometimes without status, fighting for respect and protection against bosses, who believe that workplace abuse is justified particularly if the worker is a recent immigrant or someone without status. Staff and volunteers at the centre accompany workers in their fight back. For individuals with grievances, it takes many hours to prepare cases, do the research, support given to workers and with determination to win, there have been setting precedents cases against all odds. And we do win. Examples include unemployment and occupational health benefits for those who have lost jobs as temporary foreign workers. In another case, a worker was given severance benefits far beyond what she would have received from the Commission des Normes de Travail. We see the daily abuses of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and help workers navigate the complexities of it.
But this is not enough. We go beyond individual successes in two ways. First, we campaign for policy change. We are working in two areas: Temporary Placement Agency Work, and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. We describe these campaigns in the accompanying newsletter. Second and perhaps more important, workers themselves, are the spokespeople and witnesses for these campaigns. The IWC is a political project in the sense that it supports building power and a collective voice for immigrant workers, both with and without status. This is the exciting part of the work and the most inspiring. Recently we held a meeting that brought together approximately 60 workers, domestics, and those employed through temporary employment agencies and those in the temporary foreign workers program. They shared stories of the abuse and exploitation but more important worked together to present demands to the Quebec Minister of Labour. The minister’s office met to discuss these issues. We will share more as the process unfolds.

This letter is to ask for your financial support. Despite the successes and the important achievements of the IWC during the past year, there have been many months where we had to decide whether to delay the rent or pay, often for weeks at a time. Currently, volunteers carry out most of the work at the centre with one person currently on staff, one on a short-term grant from Emploi Quebec and the other on a special grant from that office. We have made progress with trade unions and are in discussion with several of the large unions in Quebec for support. There is a growing understanding of the importance of the IWC as a component of the broader labour movement. Both temporary placement agencies and the Temporary Foreign Workers program are part of a wider attack on the living standards of all workers. Unions understand the importance of the IWC in organizing and supporting those workers. Our longer-term goal with the unions is to raise enough on a recurrent basis to pay the salary of one organizer. We continue to apply for both government and foundation grants and enter into partnerships with academic projects, but with limited success in an environment of budget compression. We need your help. If you support the goals of the centre please give generously and support our campaigns for justice for immigrant and migrant workers!

Sincerely

Eric Shragge

President

Board of Directors

Please donate through Paypal on our website  http://iwc-cti.ca/ You can give a single donation or a recurrent monthly donation.

Or you can make a check payable to the Immigrant Workers Centre and mail it to our office 4755 Van Horne #110 Montreal Quebec H3W 1H8

Photos of Mayworks 2013!! performances and skits by Immigrant workers depicting their struggles!

http://quelquesnotes.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/110513-2/

Precarious Worker Campaign Media

=>(english) http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2013/05/01/quebec-foreign-worker-agricultural.html

=>(english) http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Foreign+workers+face+changing+landscape/8323510/story.html

=>(francais) http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/societe/2013/04/05/003-travailleurs-immigrants-protection.shtml

=>(francaise) http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/actualites-en-societe/377067/le-cauchemar-de-maher


WORKSHOP ON EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

WORKSHOP ON EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE & THE UNEMPLOYMENT OF

TEMPORARY AGENCY WORKERS

Saturday, June 1st, 2013, 4:00 pm

Provided by Mouvement Action Chômage

4755 Van Horne Street, Suite # 110

Immigrant Worker Centre (IWC)

To answer all your questions:

Do I have the right to obtain unemployment benefits even if I don’t have papers?

Am I entitled for unemployment insurance if I don’t have an actual job but am still employed by an agency?

Can I access employment insurance if I was laid off or terminated?

FOLLOWED BY A DISCUSSION ABOUT

THE FUTURE AND PERTINENT ACTIONS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF TEMPORARY

AGENCY WORKERS