The TAWA Women’s Committee aims to shed light on the specific issues that women with precarious immigration status face in the workplace. The Committee is fighting for the regularization of immigration status, access to healthcare, and access to justice for all.
Origins of the TAWA Women’s Committee
In 2014, the Temporary Agency Workers Association (TAWA) established the Leadership Development for Women Factory Agency Workers which, as the name suggests, aimed to promote the participation of women within the association. At that time, roughly 80% of TAWA’s members were men. This leadership development program enabled us to better identify and address the specific problems confronting women working for placement agencies.
We began by organizing workshops about Quebec’s employment standards and health and safety in the workplace. We watched documentaries and held discussions about the struggles of other women living and working in similar conditions. Participants developed a better understanding of their own conditions through a process of self-reflection about their experiences in the workplace and the impact of work on their everyday lives, their families, and their physical and mental health. We also held art and theatre-based workshops to develop the women’s ability to confront their supervisors in order to directly address workplace abuses.
Through this effort we trained a group of women who were more aware of their rights in the workplace and reinforced their ability to ensure that those rights are respected. This also allowed them to develop their own leadership skills and their capacity to support other vulnerable women with whom they worked.
Today, several of these women are still active members of TAWA and many new members have joined the association.
Formation of the Committee and the “We have value, we have rights, and together we fight for our cause” Campaign
With the arrival of new women in the association we have identified many new problems confronting them. Many of our members are survivors of violence in the workplace, which often takes the form of psychological and sexual harassment. Many of these women have found it near impossible to assert their rights and have been refused protection against these abuses for numerous reasons, such as the precarity of their immigration status, difficulty convincing the authorities that they have been the victims of violence and abuse due to a lack of concrete evidence, and administrative barriers preventing them from holding their employers accountable through the CNESST. Consequently, many women who have experienced violence in the workplace suffer from severe depression and other long-term mental health impacts because they do not have access to justice or the proper support. Some have even contemplated suicide.
Given these circumstances, the group decided to form the Women’s Committee within TAWA in 2018. The committee launched the “We have value, we have rights, and together we fight for our cause” campaign the following year.
The TAWA Women’s Committee believes that it is necessary to put a definitive end to violence against women in the workplace and demand that women with precarious immigration status be protected. Despite the fact that the issue of violence against women is the subject of much public discussion and there may appear to be many resources and organizations dedicated to addressing the issue, the protection of immigrant women, particularly those with precarious status, is rarely considered. Violence against women who work without status or with precarious immigration status is rarely rendered visible and has never been adequately addressed by the government. Concrete measures to deal with this issue have not been put in place.
We demand that the Commission des normes de l’équité et de la santé et sécurité du travail (CNESST) address complaints about psychological and sexual harassment in the workplace without any consideration of workers’ the immigration status.
We demand that the City of Montreal implement a meaningful sanctuary city policy and that the city administration ensures that the City of Montreal Police Service no longer cooperates with the Canadian Border Services Agency. We also demand that the city creates a municipal ID card that can serve as proof of identity for people without status.
We demand that Quebec’s provincial government provide RAMQ access to all residents of Quebec, regardless of their immigration status. We also demand that the Certificats de sélections du Québec be issued to all people who apply for it in order to expand access to permanent residency in the province.
We demand that the federal government provide access to emergency benefits introduced in response to the COVID-19 crisis to all residents of Canada regardless of their immigration status. We also demand that the federal government ensures the regularisation of all people without status.