Migrant workers' call for labour rights in Canada gets Swiss support

21 October 2016 10:37

Under the 

Harvesting Freedom-campaign

migrant workers in Canada are calling for an end to the exploitation they are subjected to. 


Every year thousands of migrant workers end up working under precarious conditions under the so called Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. The seasonal workers get eight months of work permit annually and are strictly tied to their employer, which means they can be fired and sent home without pay if they complain about working conditions or ill treatment. 

The Swiss Union Unia, an affiliate of the BWI, has supported the campaign by sending a letter to the Canadian ambassador in Switzerland – with a message to Prime Minister Trudeau to change the legislation in order to end the inhumane treatment of migrant workers in Canada. 

Rita Schiavi, member of Unia’s Executive Board and Chair of the BWI European Regional Women’s Committee, says the union got to know about the situation after having met with various migrant organizations when participating in the World Social Social Forum that was held in Toronto in August. 

”We travelled to Canada with the expectation of learning more about a country known for an exemplary immigration policy. We were therefore shocked to find that in Canada there is a large number of temporary migrants whose residency status is highly precarious. They sincerely hope that the new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, will no longer tolerate the inhumane situation of temporary migrants and usher in changes.” Rita Schiavi writes in the letter. 

Schiavi was a member of a 20-BWI delegation that included representatives of UNIA, Rakensulliiitto of Finland, FNV of the Netherlands, and BIU of Bermuda that participated in a mission to Canada. During this mission, the delegation met with migrant workers and activists in Toronto to understand more about the Canadian policies pertaining to migrant workers and labour migration. 

In addition the delegation had an opportunity to have a special screening of a documentary entitled, Migrant Dreams by Min Sook Lee. The film which details the struggle of migrant women farm workers who "dare to resist the systematic oppression and exploitation from their brokers, employers and Canadian government in small-town Ontario," has been screened throughout the march. 

"Temporary work permit programs where workers are tied to one employer and deprived of their basic rights always lead to exploitation​. I have seen this in Qatar and I am shocked to see similar situation here in a developed country such as Canada. The Canadian government should recognize the huge contributions of migrants are making in the Canadian economy. Their rights must be secured and treated with dignity and respect," says Ruud Baars, Chair of the BWI Ad Hoc Working Group on Migration. 

Read more about the Harvesting Freedom campaign here.