False promises for recent immigrants

Study reveals low wage job cycle, workplace rights violations
December 10, 2007

In spite of high education levels, many recent immigrants to BC find
themselves stuck in low wage jobs, with few meaningful protections in
the workplace, according to a new study released by the Canadian Centre
for Policy Alternatives and the Philippine Women Centre.

Workplace Rights for Immigrants in BC: The Case of Filipino Workers
reveals that despite a booming BC economy, recent immigrants to the
province often find economic security elusive. They frequently work in
unsafe conditions with little training or access to information about
their rights. The study also finds that enforcement of the Employment
Standards Act (ESA) is effectively non-existent. None of the study's
interviewees had made use of the English-only "self-help kit" (the only
way to report violations to the Ministry of Labour and Citizens'
Services), despite experiencing ESA violations.

"The provincial
government's rollback of employment standards in 2002 means that many
basic employment rights now exist only as 'paper-rights,' particularly
for recent immigrants," says Habiba Zaman, SFU professor and co-author
of the report.

"If no one has informed you of your rights and no
one is actively enforcing them, how can you enjoy the protections that
are supposed to exist for all workers in BC?" continues Zaman.

educated immigrants are arriving in Canada with the promise of good
employment," says Cecilia Diocson, co-author of the report and
executive director of the National Alliance of Philippine Women in
Canada. "Instead, they are experiencing a severe transition penalty in
the form of low-paying jobs, often with inadequate protections. This is
a cycle that stretches into unsatisfactory employment for years and can
eventually result in long-term economic hardship."

Based on
the report's findings and consultation with immigrant-serving
organizations, the study makes extensive policy recommendations,

  • Eliminate the $6 first-job wage, and increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour.

  • Institute
    proactive monitoring teams who would randomly investigate workplaces
    for employment standards and WorkSafe violations. Increase penalties
    for violations.

  • Eliminate the "self-help kit" and allow workers
    to bring complaints about workplace violations directly to the
    Employment Standards Branch. Also, fund a community-based, non-profit
    system, which would provide assistance, including advocacy, to workers
    who believe their rights have been violated.

  • Substantially
    increase public education of the ESA through information sessions,
    translation into appropriate languages, and extensive distribution.
    Restore the requirement that rights be posted at workplaces.

Workplace Rights for Immigrants in BC: The Case of Filipino Workers, by Habiba Zaman, Cecilia Diocson and Rebecca Scott, is available at www.policyalternatives.ca


Multilingual versions of this release are available at www.policyalternatives.ca.

Call Terra Poirier at 604-801-5121 x229 to arrange interviews with the following spokespeople:

  • Habiba Zaman, report co-author, Associate Professor of Women's Studies, SFU

  • Cecilia Diocson, report co-author, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada

  • Leah Diana, Vice-Chairperson, Philippine Women Centre of BC (PWC)

  • Charan Gill, CEO, Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS)

  • Sherman Chan, Director of Settlement Services, MOSAIC

study was produced as part of the Economic Security Project, a joint
research initiative of the CCPA and Simon Fraser University, funded
primarily by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
Canada (SSHRC). This study also received a grant from the Vancouver
Foundation, which significantly facilitated the research process.