National Migrant Worker Rights Coalition Calls for EI Reforms

The Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada (CMWRC) is calling for removal of restrictions of hours required for Employment Insurance so that ALL Fort McMurray worker evacuees can have immediate income. CMWRC is also calling on the federal government to issue open work permits or temporary residents permits for temporary foreign workers (TFW) evacuees so that they can get back on their feet and get back to work. A review is currently taking place for EI in Parliament and a review of the TFW program starts on Wednesday, May 11th. CMWRC is calling for open work permits, and permanent resident status for migrant workers in the TFW review. A petition calling for these changes has been launched by the CMWRC.

“Many of the 80,000 people who were evacuated now have no income due to no fault of their own, and many may be denied Employment Insurance,” explains Migrante Canada organizer and CMWRC member Marco Luciano based in Edmonton. “Getting Employment Insurance into the hands of all workers – Canadian and migrant – is essential to giving people the support they need.”

Under current laws, workers in Fort McMurray need to have worked 630 hours in the previous 52 weeks to qualify for EI. If they do, they would receive a base rate of 55% of their weekly salary. Many workers will be excluded because they have not accrued this many hours.

Marco Luciano
Marco Luciano

“Migrant workers face an additional burden however, which requires immediate action. Under the current broken system, migrant workers can only work for one employer at the one location that is listed on their permits. They are effectively tied to a single workplace, and now likely that workplace has been destroyed by fire” added Luciano. “These migrant workers need open work permits or temporary resident permits immediately so that they can start looking for work and get back on their feet. They have taken huge loans to come work in Canada, they have families to feed just like everyone else, and they need their hands untied so they can get back to work.”

“The tragedy in Alberta highlights the need to address the inconsistencies that exist for migrant workers that should be dealt with in the upcoming review of the TFW process,” says Syed Hussan, from the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change in Toronto. “All migrant workers need permanent resident immigration status, open work permits and an end to Harper era laws.”

The Filipino Workers Network is raising funds for the foreign worker evacuees at https://fundrazr.com/b180X9. A petition has also been started by CMWRC