·  Media Release

Steelworkers Welcome Decision Accepting Temporary Foreign Workers' Human Rights Case

Burnaby, B.C. - The United Steelworkers (USW) today welcomed the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal's decision to accept complaints filed by the union on behalf of a group of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) employed at a Fernie, B.C., Tim Hortons.

"While it's unfortunate that a failure by our provincial and federal governments to enforce the law leaves vulnerable foreign workers with little to no recourse, today's decision affirms there can be a path to justice no matter where you are from or what your status in our country is," said Stephen Hunt, USW's Western Canada Director.

Last year Steelworkers in Fernie were approached by a group of TFWs alleging their employer required them to pay back a portion of their overtime pay - in cash - even driving employees to the bank and waiting while they cashed their paycheques.

A USW investigation prompted the union to retain legal counsel and launch a representative human rights complaint on behalf of the workers.

"Recent changes to the TFW program announced by the federal government do nothing to free low-wage temporary workers from being tied to one employer and make no mention of creating a path to citizenship for them," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.

Despite years of promises by the federal and provincial governments that they would ensure employers would not exploit vulnerable TFWs, little to no enforcement has occurred.     

Hunt congratulated the temporary foreign workers for their courage in bringing forward their complaint.

"It's not easy for any worker, union or non-union, Canadian citizen or permanent resident, to bring forward a complaint against their employer. It's even harder for a temporary worker whose very presence in our country is in the hands of the boss," he said.

Hunt praised the efforts of USW Local 9346 and Kootenay labour activists in assisting these workers.

"In communities across Canada it's often local labour activists who rise to the challenge of ensuring union and non-union workers receive fair representation. I'm proud of our local union for taking on this challenging case and standing in solidarity with temporary workers from the Philippines."

The USW first exposed how the TFW program was used to preclude Canadians from jobs at HD mining in Tumbler Ridge, B.C., and was the first organization to offer support to RBC employees who were asked to train foreign workers taking their jobs. The USW also has assisted temporary workers complaining of abuse by employers at McDonalds and Subway franchises in B.C.

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For more information contact:
Stephen Hunt, USW Western Canada Director, 604-816-2554
Brad West, USW Communications, 604-683-1117, 604-754-1174, bwest@usw.ca

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