A recent study released by the Chinese Canadian National Council-Toronto chapter documents widespread employment standards violations facing Chinese workers. The study “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” found that 20% of workers surveyed were paid less than minimum wage.
Many workers described problems getting paid on time or at all. 45% of workers reported working hours that they did not get paid for, and 19% said they had been paid late. Only half of the workers received public holiday pay and a shocking 77% of workers said they did not receive any overtime pay.
“I don’t think it’s fair for me to work every night exceeding 8 hours without overtime payment” – Mrs. Yang (CCNC, 2013)
Many workers reported paying a fee to get a job, including paying recruiters to get work as a live-in caregivers.
“When I applied for the Live-in Nanny Program, I paid more than 70,000 RMB [Aprox. $11,600CAD] to secure my employment status in Canada. I have no other choice but pay the middle man this recruitment fee or else they won’t help me find an employer in Canada” – Claire (CCNC, 2013)
Many workers spoke about facing discrimination on the job. Several people spoke about their feeling that “Chinese people are at the bottom of the ladder.”
These findings reflect a study done by Workers’ Action Centre that found 1 in 3 low-wage workers had experienced unpaid wages in the last 5 years. It is yet another confirmation that urgent action is needed by the Ontario government to crack down on employers violating the law.
Workers identified the need for fines and penalties for unpaid wages and other violations and more inspections of workplaces, along with more information and help for workers to make complaints.
We agree that these are all urgent priorities. When interviewed on Global TV about the survey, Minister of Labour, Yasir Naqvi stated that any incident of employers not following the Employment Standards Act is “unacceptable.”
It’s time for Yasir Naqvi to follow through on tougher penalties for all employers when they break the law. An easy first step would be to immediately increase fines and penalties for employers who break the law and make it mandatory for all employers with a confirmed violation to face a fine. Another simple step – publicize all employers with confirmed violations on the Ministry of Labour website as is the practice in Alberta. How many more surveys are needed to show that workers need action now?