THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2020 — Staff from the Immigrant Workers Centre distribute information at Montreal Metro station informing workers about their rights during COVID-19 crisis.


Protecting your labour rights during the COVID-19 crisis is a matter of public health”



The employer must apply the necessary hygiene measures to limit the spread of the virus. They cannot force you to work in unsafe conditions.



A worker has the right to refuse to perform work if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the performance of that work would expose them to danger to their health, safety or physical integrity.


Contact CNESST:

In the event of a work refusal, call 1-844-838-0808 and dial 9, then 1. An inspector will be dispatched to the site as soon as possible. An anonymous complaint may also be filed with CNESST.


Employment Insurance Regular Benefits

Laid-off? You are entitled to regular benefits if you have accumulated between 420 and 700 hours of work (depending on the city you are in).

The waiting period is maintained, you will not be compensated for the first week, but you will be compensated for the following weeks for 55% of your income.


New emergency care benefits
Sick Benefits
If you are ill, in quarantine or in voluntary isolation:
You are entitled if you have accumulated more than 600 hours of work.
The one-week waiting period can be waived. You must call: 1-833-381-2725.
Benefits can cover the period of absence from the first day of leave.
You do not have to provide a medical certificate


Access to the COVID-19 screening clinic at the Hôtel- Dieu Hospital is open to everyone, regardless of their immigration status, with or without RAMQ coverage. For proper referral call: 1-877-644-4545

New emergency care benefits will be available by April 2020.
For more info, contact: Service Canada


Quebec Aid for Workers

This is a financial assistance program for people who are not eligible for employment insurance. The lump-sum amount granted to an eligible person is $573 per week, for a period of 14 days of isolation. It can be extended up to 28 days depending on your health.
Check online for the form @


Other Measures
The Régie du logement has suspended hearings on eviction notices (including for unpaid rent).
Hydro announced no service interruption for non-payment until further notice.
Revenu Québec and Canada Revenue Agency has extended the deadline for filing taxes to June 1, 2020.


Don’t wash away your rights! CONTACT US

Temporary Agency Workers Association
110-4755 Van Horne, Montreal, QC (Metro Plamondon)
(514) 342-2111




Website —

Temporary suspension of public office hours

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Immigrant Workers’ Centre is suspending its hours of operation and its legal clinic. If you have any questions regarding work-related issues or your status as a migrant worker, please call (514) 342-2111 or email us at Leave your name and phone number. We will contact you within 24 hours.

We will post important information for workers regarding your rights and access to services during the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of your immigration status.

Warehouse Workers Commission Report and Launch

An evening of food, culture and testimonials

Saturday, November 23, 2019, 4 pm – 6 pm

Immigrant Workers Centre, 4755 Ave Van Horne Suite 110, Montréal

The Immigrant Workers Centre would like to invite you to participate in the launch of our report which was based on a two-year investigation on the conditions faced by warehouse workers in Montreal. There will be an event on Saturday, November 23rd at 4 pm. This event will feature the testimonial of temporary agency workers in warehouses that are active in organizing, because of the conditions they face; from low-wages, job insecurity, health and safety, and for status. The event will also be a chance to celebrate and come together with cultural performances and a community dinner provided by the Guinean community.


This was a project that was led by a core group of 5 temporary agency workers, who conducted group interviews and surveys with 50 workers in Montreal warehouses and distribution centres which have become “the new factories” in Montreal. As e-commerce and just in time distribution plays a crucial role in neoliberalism from the rise of Amazon, and other retail giants focusing more on online sales. Warehouse workers become critical in the economy. These workers as highlighted in the report are mainly temporary agency workers without job security, without access to basic rights, and are often racialized workers from Africa, Haiti, the Philippines, Egypt and other places.


The report itself is not just an opportunity to discuss the conditions faced by these workers but a chance to come together in solidarity to find ways to organize for justice for these warehouse workers to defend their basic labour rights.

Placement Agency Organizing at the IWC in 2018-2019

Over the past year, ATTAP has had three main priorities. Here, we will provide an overview of organizing activity which has taken place to advance those priorities.


Over the past year, the Immigrant Workers Centre has continued its efforts to organize workers who are employed via placement agency. The main organizing body that does this work is the Association des travailleuses-eurs temporaires et d’agences de placement (ATTAP), a branch of the IWC.

 Reform of the Labor Standards Act

This year, the amendment to the Labor Standards Act, Law 176, was adopted on June 12, 2018. The main reforms that concern us are those regarding the supervision of employment agencies and the conditions of temporary foreign workers. While the law has been passed, the regulations—which will stipulate how it is enforced—are still pending. During the consultation period, the IWC, alongside allied groups, organized two discussion meetings on Bill 176, and extended invitations to (im)migrant workers. Following these discussions, the ITC made proposals and presented a brief to the National Assembly Committee. The changes which occurred can be taken as a victory for us and our demands.

Since the adoption of the law, the IWC has been pursuing two types of activities:

1) Dissemination of information on new labor standards to (im)migrant workers;

2) Sending proposals for regulations to the Government.

Warehouse Work Survey

In October 2017, the IWC and ATTAP launched an research-action project based around working conditions in warehouses in the greater Montreal area. This project has multiple objectives:

1) Document working conditions in warehouses;

2) Formulate proposals for improving working conditions based on the experiences of workers;

3) Recruit warehouse workers to create a support network;

4) Create a network of solidarity aroundthese issues.

In this context, a commission of inquiry was created, composed of workers who are currently working or who worked in one or more warehouses, in collaboration with volunteers. The project is conducted in the following stages:

1) recruitment of participants;

2) semi-structured surveys and interviews;

3) data analysis;

4) publication of the results.

Thanks to a grant from the Beati Foundation, six workers participated in three training sessions and they recruited and interviewed nearly 50 others. Questions and discussions during interviews highlighted the working conditions in the warehouses. The final report will be published in November 2019 and will include recommendations to improve conditions for warehouse workers

Creation of the ATTAP Women’s Committee

A group of women from ATTAP organized a campaign to raise issues of sexual and psychological harassment in the workplace. The objectives of the campaign include bringing women workers, who face similar issues, together to discuss and evaluate their situations, as well as to create a workplace awareness campaign for people in similar situations, and to challenge these situations using laws and policies applied by CNESST. This campaign was prepared and launched in 2018-2019 and will be extended in 2019-2020.


Beyond these broad campaigns, ATTAP has also organized a series of specific activities. These include:

  • A demonstration in May 2018 against precarious work at the National Assembly in Quebec City
  • Continuation of the campaign of solidarity with Sandra Cordero against police brutality and political repression – Dinner / Projection in May, rallies at the courthouse and court with our allies.
  • March 2019- ATTAP presence at the 2019 international women’s march
  • Continuation of the awareness campaign on deportations to Guinea
  • June 2019-Ministry of Labor search against placement agencies- awareness campaign around Parc metro
  • Two ATTAP members, Lucy, and Sophie, whose cases have been followed for a long time, have received confirmation of the acceptance of their humanitarian requests.
  • Outreach at Parc-Ex to develop links with a group of Punjabi workers

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.




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