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Monday, 6 May 2013

International exploitation – out of mind, but in sight – So why do we turn a blind eye?

In the previous posting International exploitation out of sight out of mind , this site decried the global consumerism impacts on developing country workers.  Far afield, their stories only make headlines when a major travesty happens.

Exploiting international workers is also a domestic issue.  Slavery aside, historically, Asian workers were brought to Canada to work the railroad and even now are engaged in mining operations that few Canadians do not find acceptable as working conditions.  European and African immigrants engaged in a variety of usually blue collar types of work which are difficult to fill domestically.  Central Americans who work Canadian agricultural operations including fruit and vegetable picking. 

Some of these workers relegated to less than desirable working conditions.  Most are expected to come with their own health insurance.  Health services may require out of pocket up front payments that may exceed a months income. They may not be informed of their option to apply for Canadian health benefits on arrival or in some provinces after a mandatory 3 months residency before becoming elibigle.  Workers are discouraged from reporting unacceptable working conditions.  They will lose their income and may lose employment if they are ill or injured. 

Wide variability exists in provincial supports for foreign workers.  Work camps regulations are minimal to non-existent.  A source of water and hygiene facilities may be all that is required.  Accommodation can be as minimal as requiring workers to bring their own (and interprovincial farm workers are often expected to tent).  Workplace safety is not applicable as some workers may be paid as they sell their pickings from the day and not as an employment relationship. Inspections may be non-existent for transient work camps (tree planting, fruit picking, farm work), and if there is a problem workers are fearful of filing complaints, don’t know how to file such complaints, and put their tenuous jobs at risk as they lack the same level of workplace protection as domestic workers.

As health workers, foreign workers are often not welcomed at health facilities without cash in hand.  Organized programs are lacking.  Outreach programs for Canadians have seen funding whittled away leaving managers struggling to protect Canadians first and turning the blind eye to the expanding foreign worker situation.   

In 6 years the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has increased from 200,000 to 340,000. (in 2012 there were 265,000 temporary foreign students, 220,000 recent immigrants with permanent status, and 25,000 refugees claimants all of whom also have health issues in their recent dislocations). Citizenship and Immigration Canada

New York state boasts full worker protection and benefits for temporary foreign workers with a strong regulatory system.   Canada’s growing international exploitation is another less than stellar social performance with potential future catastrophic consequences.  In this instance however, Canadian governments have the ability to ensure dignity, equity and fairness are extended and blatantly choose to ignore this, while quietly promoting foreign worker exploitation.  Take a few minutes to compare New York’s amicable approach to foreign works http://labor.ny.gov/immigrants/service.shtm with that of Citizenship and Immigration Canada http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/work/apply-who.asp  

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