On Sunday, June 16, which is International Domestic Workers’ Day, we will join migrant worker groups across the country to Unite Against Racism. Join us at 2:00 pm at Grange Park as part of this national day of action, so we can demand decent work for ALL and push back against the cuts that hurt our communities (learn more here).
In Brampton, community members understand that unfair labour and immigration laws are responsible for low wages and employment standards — not migrants or refugees. For the second edition of our Stories from the Frontlines update, we sat down with two Workers’ Action Centre leaders, Joti and Navi, who are organizing in this region, to find out why it’s so important for workers to take a stand against racism.
Workers’ Action Centre: What are the issues affecting workers in Brampton right now?
Joti: For a long time now we’ve been dealing with low-wage, unstable and dangerous work. When employers hear an accent and know we are immigrants, they take advantage. They devalue our skills. Employers count on us being too afraid of getting fired to stand up for our rights. I meet a lot of workers who aren’t getting overtime pay, even as they work more and more hours. We are being cheated out of our hard-earned money. On top of all this, people feel very disappointed that we didn’t get the $15 minimum wage that was promised.
Navi: For so many people in our community, unfair immigration laws make it even tougher for workers to survive. Lots of international students in Brampton must try to earn enough to pay tuition that’s up to four times higher than domestic student fees. Yet the law limits migrant students to only 20 work hours per week. How are they supposed to live? And when employers know your rights are limited by impossible rules, they take advantage of workers. This is exactly what happened to migrant student Jobandeep, who had to work over 20 hours and is now facing deportation. Our community is trying to stand up for him: it only took a week for us to get over 50,000 people to sign the petition in his defense. This is why it is so important that we win permanent status on arrival for all migrants — it’s the only way to ensure access to full rights, including employment standard protection.
How is the community responding to the Ford government rolling back workers’ rights and cutting public services?
Joti: With so many temp agencies in Brampton, we need more protections for workers, not less! Temp workers have a higher risk of suffering serious injuries and many times they feel they cannot report their injury as the employer will not call them back to work. Sometimes the boss even claims there’s a permanent position waiting for them — as long as they don’t report their injury. It’s sad to see how terrible injuries can get when workers don’t report them right away — one man we met lost his eyesight! As if all this wasn’t bad enough, workers also have trouble getting support from the Workers Safety Insurance Board.
Navi: Over the past months, while we fought to defend the many labour rights and protections on the job that the Ford government scrapped, we also spoke up about the cuts to our local hospital and the planned university in Brampton. Decent work, quality healthcare and access to post-secondary education make our community better, so local residents are extremely disappointed in the current government for taking away these basic rights and services.
With all the cuts happening right now, why is it so crucial for Brampton workers to Unite Against Racism?
Joti: Brampton is a diverse place with many recent immigrants. Whatever our backgrounds, we all face the same problems with finding good jobs and accessing quality public services. We know that we can’t be blaming each other for these cuts. Wages aren’t low because of migrants, but because of bad labour laws. Social assistance funds are not used up by immigrants, but the Ford government did just throw away hundreds of millions in order to sell beer in convenience stores.
Navi: Employers profit from the divisions between us. If we don’t fight together, everyone will lose. Brampton workers will Unite Against Racism this Sunday. And we will keep standing up for migrant workers like Jobandeep and the temp workers in our community.
Employers benefit from migrants having fewer rights, which makes it harder for them to stand up against low wages and terrible working conditions. But on June 16, we will recognize the resistance of migrant workers who contribute so much to our communities. All workers have much to gain by standing with migrants to fight for decent work. This Sunday, we will not be divided by the lie that there aren’t enough resources and services for all of us. If you are in Toronto, join us at Grange Park at 2:00 PM to Unite Against Racism, or visit MigrantRights.ca to see how you can get involved in your area.