Creating Safe Workplaces for International Workers

Ashley: Hello and welcome to Health and Safety To Go a C-C-O-H-S podcast.

Today, we're joined by Francy Munoz, Community Legal Worker, at the Windsor Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic, and leader of the C.A.R.E for International Workers Program. Francy regularly collaborates with various social service, health, government, and settlement organizations, to develop and implement programs that support international workers. She also consults with various agencies to provide legal education, solicit resources, and build relationships that will support the well-being of international workers.
Francy, will be among our speakers at this year's Changing World of Work Forum in Halifax.

Francy, thanks for being our guest today.

Francy: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for extending the invitation, for me, to be a speaker at this year’s Changing World of Work Forum in Halifax, and for inviting me to participate in this podcast. I’m honored and excited to have the opportunity to discuss the crucial health and safety challenges, faced by migrant workers in Canada.

Ashley: We're excited to have you both today and Forum.

So, we know Francy, that the Canadian economy depends on guest workers. We also know that there are a number of factors that make guest workers vulnerable, language barriers being one of the comes to mind. What are some of the other challenges faced by these workers?

Francy: In addition to language barriers, migrant workers in Canada, face several other challenges that leave them vulnerable. One significant issue, for example, is the sub-par living conditions in accommodations provided by their employers. Many case workers live in poor living conditions that are unsustainable and inadequate for their needs. The situation can lead to overcrowding, lack of proper sanitation, and insufficient access to essential amenities, posing, the health and safety risk[s].

We can see another issue is the lack of job security and protection. Many caseworkers are tied to  specific employers through temporary work permits, which can make them hesitant to assert their rights, for fear of losing their jobs or also facing deportation. This dependence of a single employer can lead to exploitive working conditions, which [includes] limited access to social benefits. Moreover, guest workers, often encounter difficulties in accessing essential services. Due, for example, to the lack of multilingual staff or interpreters available to support guest workers [access] healthcare, education, and government services, which exacerbates their vulnerabilities.

Separation from their families and support networks back home can also contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. All together, addressing these challenges, improving the working and living conditions for guest workers, are crucial steps to ensure a fair and equitable treatment of these individuals who play an essential role in the Canadian economy.

Ashley: So, tell us about the C.A.R.E for International Workers Program and how you're able to improve health and safety outcomes for your clients and help them address some of these challenges.

Francy: Sure, C.A.R.E for International Workers Program is led by the Windsor-Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic. It is a commendable community partnership to provide an assistance and resources to migrant workers of all nationalities. Through this program, community partners collaborate to achieve its goals and objectives, ensuring the welfare and empowerment of temporary foreign workers. With a comprehensive range of free services, including legal support, public legal education, mental and spiritual health services, and women’s support, English classes, and occupational health and safety information and resources. C.A.R.E aims to promote the overall health and well-being of migrant workers in Windsor Essex, mainly. But now is extended through the whole province of Ontario by offering personalized community coaching, virtual programming, and various organized events. This program strives to improve health and safety outcomes for migrant workers, empowering them to understand and exercise their legal rights. [Through this], we are fostering a strong sense of community and support.

Ashley: Amazing! What are some of the first steps employer should take to make the workplace safer for and more supportive of, guest workers?

Francy: I think creating a safer and more supportive workplace for migrant workers, involves several essential steps that employers should take. For example, employers must provide migrant workers with adequate and affordable housing, according to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program requirements. Employers should conduct a thorough assessment of the workplace to identify potential hazards and risks specific to guest workers’ tasks. Once identified, implementing appropriate safety measures, and providing adequate training on safety protocols are paramount.

Employers should also address language barriers by offering language training or providing multilingual materials to ensure clear communication and understanding on safety guidelines.
Additionally, fostering a culture of inclusion and respect is very vital. When guest workers feel comfortable voicing concerns and reporting any safety issues without fear or reprisals. Regularly engaging with guest workers to gather feedback and understanding their unique needs, can further enhance workplace support and safety.

Lastly, ensuring compliance with labour laws and regulations related to guest workers’ rights and protection is essential in creating a workplace that values their well-being and promotes a safe working environment.

Ashley: On the topic of workers feeling safe and comfortable with coming forward; if guest workers witness unsafe or illegal practices, where can they turn for help?

Francy: If guest workers witness unsafe or experience illegal practices in the workplace, they have several avenues to seek help and protection. Usually, they can reach out to the Windsor Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic or other relevant legal aid organizations that specialize in assisting migrant workers. These organizations can provide legal advice, support, and representation in reporting and addressing issues.

Additionally, guest workers can contact the appropriate government agencies responsible for labor and workplace safety. For example, the Ministry of Labour or Employment Standards offices, to file complaints and seek intervention. Many provinces in Canada have dedicated health lines or hotlines to report labour violations anonymously.

Furthermore, if guest workers are affiliated with unions, they can seek assistance and guidance from their union representatives to advocate for their rights and address other unsafe or illegal practices.

I think is essential for migrant guest workers to know that they have rights and protections in Canada and there are resources available to support them in ensuring a safe and fair working environment and free of abuses.

Ashley: Absolutely! Is there anything else you'd like to share with our listeners?

Francy: Certainly, I invite all our listeners to take part in the CCOHS Forum where they can gain valuable insights into the health and safety challenges experienced by migrant workers in Canada. Join us to hear powerful stories and discover how the Windsor Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic and its C.A.R.E for International Workers Program has been instrumental in providing ongoing support and positively impacting the lives of these workers. It is a really good opportunity to raise awareness, foster an understanding, and make a difference in their lives. In the lives of those who contribute significantly to our communities and country.

Ashley: We can't wait to host you and Francy. It's been a pleasure to talk to you today. You can find more resources on workers rights on our website, C-C-O-H-S dot c-a.

Thanks for listening.

Francy: Thanks