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Alleged mistreatment of temporary foreign workers in Quebec prompts calls for change
The Immigrant Workers Centre based in Montreal is calling on provincial and federal governments to make changes to the temporary foreign worker’s program after recent allegations of abuse and exploitation of employees in Quebec seniors homes.
Orderlies spoke to media about their experience during a Sunday morning press conference. Global News is not using their names to protect their identities.
One worker described his time working at Villa mon Domaine in Lévis, Que. as a “nightmare.” He claims he faced harassment, threats of deportation and was paid just $100 every two weeks for 10 months.
Last month, an investigation by Le Devoir reported similar allegations by temporary foreign workers employed at the residence.
The Immigrant Workers Centre says the worker’s allegations are shared by many immigrants working in private seniors residences and long-term care homes known as CHSLDs.
“It’s a result of this system of temporary foreign work and close work permit within which the employees are tied to an employer and don’t have the very fundamental freedom to choose who they will work for,” explained Raphaël Laflamme, a community organizer at the Immigrant Workers Centre.
A female orderly present at the news conference said her experience made her feel like a “slave.” At her job in the province’s Outaouais region, she claims she worked for less than $10 an hour and was obliged to do whatever her employer told her.
“Sometimes I was feeling sick because it was very terrible,” she told Global News.
The Immigrant Workers Centre is calling for the removal of closed work permits. These are the standard permit given to temporary foreign workers and do not allow employees to change employers.
According to Laflamme, open work permits are currently only granted if an employee can prove psychological or physical harassment or poor work conditions.
In the meantime, Laflamme would like to see the province and hiring agencies increase the amount of checks on temporary foreign workers to “make sure that the labour laws are respected in the place they work.”
In a statement to Global News, Quebec Labour and Employment Minister Jean Boulet said “I am shocked by the situations mentioned by the temporary foreign workers.”
He has asked the provincial ministry of labour to investigate.
“I also share the desire to provide more flexibility for workers who may experience abuse or harassment. Ottawa needs to speed up the transition for victims,” said Boulet.
Laflamme told Global News that temporary foreign workers are as good as any Quebec worker and it’s time they are treated as equals.
The federal government did not respond to a request for an interview by the time of publishing. Global News has also reached out to Villa mon Domaine for comment.
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