January 24, 2021

Position Paper submitted to the Committee on Labour and the Economyas part of the consultations on Bill n . 59, Act to Modernize the Occupational Health and Safety Regime

This document was prepared by the Coalition Against Precarious Work, created in 2012 by organizations and associations working with precarious workers, particularly migrants, immigrants and racialized workers.

Coalition members welcome the willingness to “modernize” the occupational health-and-safety regime, an initiative that is all the more important as the crisis at COVID- 19 amplifies the shortcomings of the present regime. However, the draft bill remains too limited, in our view, in affording protect to workers, particularly those who are non- unionized or atypically employed. We deplore the fact that organizations representing non- unionized workers, with certain exceptions, were not invited to participate in the consultation process.

This brief begins by presenting some of the issues in the reform of the OHSA and the LATMP that are of particular concern to workers of recent immigration background. To this are three other issues of major importance to all workers.

The second section presents our proposals for the reform.

This brief concludes with testimonies from workers about their work experiences.

Press Release: “End curfew repression! Stop police harassment!”

The IWC issues four demands to protect precarious essential workers

Montreal, January 26, 2021. Precarious workers demand an immediate end to the harassment, detention, ticketing and arbitrary bullying of essential workers without status by police on the pretext of enforcing the curfew. The Immigrant Workers Centre demand that the following policies be implemented immediately:

  1. A don’t ask, don’t tell policy for workers without status
  2. Acceptance of the essential employment certificate at face value by police during curfew
  3. Distribution of municipal IDs for all Montreal residents that would permit workers without status to legally identify themselves without disclosing their immigration status
  4. That the Quebec government issue financial compensation for all workers regardless of their status who have lost income due to the curfew

Essential workers without status are subject to more danger, financial hardship and precarity than ever before due to the pandemic. The draconian powers granted to police in guise of curfew enforcement have further exacerbated the problem, especially for those with precarious immigration status who rarely have the luxury of working from home. 

“Even before the curfew workers with precarious immigration status were afraid of being interrogated by police in public space. We have repeatedly asked the government and the SPVM for real protection of non-status migrants, by applying the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” This policy would prevent police from asking for their immigration status and informing the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA),” outlines Immigrant Workers Centre community organizer Viviana Carole Medina.

The curfew gives Montréal police the authority to demand identity documents from non-status essential workers on the frontlines. This could lead to both detention and deportation of essential workers such as delivery drivers, cleaners and transit workers. 

Since the curfew started, numerous workers in precarious situations have been harassed by the police. Several night-shift workers have described being interrogated by police, sometimes for more than 40 minutes, despite presenting an essential employment certificate. These essential workers are serving the community and risking their lives to keep society functioning during the pandemic. They merit respect and support, not intimidation.

“We also asked that a municipal ID card be issued as a fully acceptable form of ID,” Medina continues. “Our requests for change have been left unanswered. The fear of those without status has been exponentially amplified by the curfew because the police have now full authority to interrogate people in the street.” 

The City of Montreal was declared a sanctuary city in 2017 to protect those without status from deportation. That the Montreal police are weaponizing the curfew to harass people with precarious status is consequently hypocritical as well as morally outrageous.

Most essential workers are not on a salary and can’t work from home. Many of those paid by the hour have had their hours or entire shifts cut as depanneurs, fast-food places and some grocery stores shift to closing by 7:30 or earlier due to the curfew. 

It’s unacceptable that the people taking the highest health risk to keep the economy going are losing income without any government financial compensation or even acknowledgment. The Immigrant Workers Centre calls for the Quebec government to immediately issue an emergency income supplement for workers who have had their hours cut due to the curfew for the full amount of income lost.

“Police detain immigrant workers to question them a lot. This wastes our time. We work hard and do honest work during the pandemic. It feels like harassment,” says Gaurav Sharma, a driver for Uber Eats and community organizer at the Immigrant Workers Centre. “For workers without status this is even more dangerous and scary. No one should be without status, especially now- no one is illegal.”

Click here to learn more about your rights during the curfew


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 —

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.

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

Radha D’Souza in conversation
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 (, 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.