The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition endorsed this letter in support of the Rising Up Against Unjust Recruitment Campaign. Individuals can support the campaign here, while organizations can sign on the the open letter here.
The Honourable Shirley Bond
Minister of Jobs, Tourism & Skills
Training & Responsible for Labour
PO Box 9071 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
Dear Minister Shirley Bond:
Rising Up Against Unjust Recruitment is a campaign that seeks to advance the rights of migrant workers in our province. As a coalition of concerned groups and individuals in British Columbia, we are acutely aware that Temporary Foreign Workers are routinely charged unlawful, exorbitant fees for jobs in this province and are coerced into working for lower wages than promised and under conditions below minimum labour standards set by the Employment Standards Act.
As you know, the federal government’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities recently released a report with recommendations aimed at improving the Temporary Foreign Worker (“TFW”) Program. The recommendations acknowledge that the TFW Program, as it currently exists, allows for the abuse of TFWs by recruiters and employers. Among the recommendations is the critical proposal to review current monitoring and enforcement mechanisms in order to address gaps in employer and recruiter compliance and to protect the rights of TFWs.
We understand that the provincial government fully supports federal efforts to strengthen the TFW Program and other mechanisms to protect vulnerable TFWs. We are writing today to assist you in addressing the omissions in the current employment standards regime and supporting you in implementing greatly needed changes to protect migrant workers from exploitation in their recruitment and employment in BC.
To this end, we strongly urge the provincial government to enact legislation and policy to ensure that the Employment Standards Branch is mandated to proactively investigate, enforce and penalize offending recruiters and employers. In doing so, BC would be aligning itself with six other provinces which have recognized the need to protect vulnerable TFWs through legislation.
Specifically, we urge the province to implement the following protective measures:
- To prevent the charging of unlawful recruitment fees:
- Require recruiters to be licensed in BC and to provide a financial security at the time of licensing, and allow workers to recover fees from the security;
- Hold employers liable for repayment of fees to workers where the employer has used or required the worker to use an unlicensed recruiter and provide that employers are vicariously liable for actions of their agents; and
- c. Extend the limitation period for recovery of recruitment fees and other rights violations to 3 years.
- To ensure effective enforcement:
- Require recruiters to disclose information about partners operating inside or outside of the province and hold recruiters liable for their actions;
- Require employers to register with the province before hiring TFWs;
- Implement a proactive enforcement regime that would require inspections of workplaces and housing as well as anonymous and third party complaints; and
- Increase penalties for and publicize the names of recruiters and employers who charge recruitment fees or otherwise violate provisions of the legislation.
- To ensure that workers have access to information about their rights and help to file complaints:
- Require employers to facilitate access to free orientation sessions for workers about their rights; and
- Establish and fund independent migrant worker advisory offices to help with filing complaints and a 24-hour information and help line for migrant workers.
These changes will strengthen the BC economy by ensuring that hardworking TFWs can contribute to our province, prosper and build their lives in our communities.
Enclosed you will find a list of recommendations (Appendix A) and a backgrounder with further details about the Rising Up Against Unjust Recruitment campaign. We look forward to meeting with you in the near future to discuss our concerns and to work together to identify and implement solutions which advance the rights of temporary foreign workers. Please contact Alexandra Rodgers, Rising Up Against Unjust Recruitment Campaign, at (604) 290-4719 or firstname.lastname@example.org to establish a meeting with representatives of the undersigned organizations and individuals.
 Specifically, the Committee recommended a movement away from a complaint-driven model and toward “ensuring, through on-site inspections, that labour laws and regulations are properly enforced where migrant workers operate.” See Recommendation 20 in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills, and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities at page 34.