UFCW welcomes victory for temporary foreign workers in Quebec, calls for labour law reform
Montreal – May 5, 2016 –Quebec’s Labour Administrative Tribunal has ruled that four temporary foreign workers who were victims of psychological harassment from their employer must be compensated for their abuse. The tribunal further acknowledged that temporary foreign workers have no legal means of enforcing their workplace rights, and are effectively at the “mercy’’ of their employers when labouring in Canada.
Upon considering the facts presented to her at the tribunal hearings, administrative judge Andrée St-Georges stated that ‘‘by providing inadequate housing to migrant workers; by not providing them with equipment that would allow them to get more supplies easily; by treating them rudely and by humiliating them in various ways while they were working...by making them do fumigation jobs without protection; by waking them up and sending them to work when they had not had enough sleep...by acting this way as a whole...one would assuredly (conclude that these conditions) undermined (the workers’) dignity...and physical integrity (and thus) caused their working environment to become harmful.”
The tribunal therefore ordered the employer to pay the four affected workers $6,000 as moral and punitive damages, and to cover their incurred expenses and the wages that they lost while attending the tribunal hearings.
“Our union applauds the tribunal’s decision in this case, though reforms are needed to prevent this type of abuse from occurring in the future,” says UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema.
“Because of Bill 8, which prevents migrant farm workers in smaller workplaces from unionizing, the employees involved in this case were clearly put in a position of vulnerability,” he adds.
“Had these workers been able to unionize, it is very likely that this situation would have never happened in the first place, as unionization remains the only real form of protection for temporary foreign workers labouring in Canada.”