Precarious workers confront Quebec’s Minister of Labour

On September 25, the Precarious Workers Coalition/Coalition des travellers precaires demonstrated in front of Quebec’s Ministry of Labour in order to give Minister Sam Hamad a letter containing the coalition’s demands and a explanation about the current situation on precarious work in the province. Unfortunately the Minister was not available, so the letter was squeezed under his door in front of security. The Coalition made clear that the province’s labour laws fail to address the rights of precarious and foreign workers and that there is a desperate need for change. As part of the letter to the Minister states:
Quebec’s existing laws and regulations are wholly inadequate in offering protection to those working in atypical, precarious jobs. Moreover, these laws and regulations have perpetuated the systemic discrimination of certain workers in Quebec, particularly temporary agency workers, temporary foreign workers and domestic workers. The laws and regulations in Quebec need to reflect this changing nature of work in order to ensure that all workers enjoy equal rights and protections.DSC_0013
A copy of the letter is available below and can be downloaded here.
Future actions are planned for October 7, the Day of Decent Work, when the Coalition will hold a second demonstration at 17.30. The FTQ (Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec) will be organizing workshops that morning for coalition members. 

To: Sam Hamad, Minister of Labour
Re: Meeting with the Coalition against Precarious Work

Dear Minister Hamad,

We are the Coalition against Precarious Work, a coalition of several grassroots organizations including: Dignidad Migrante; the Immigrant Workers Centre; Mexicans United for Regularization (MUR); PINAY, Filipino Women’s Organization of Quebec; the Spanish Immigrants Collective of Montreal; the Temporary Agency Workers Association; and the Temporary Foreign Workers Association. We represent a diverse constituency of domestic workers, temporary foreign workers, workers with precarious statuses and temporary agency workers. Our main goal is to defend the rights and welfare of precarious workers in Quebec.

As you may know, the nature of work is changing in Quebec. More and more workers are working in precarious jobs. These are jobs with low wages, little to no benefits, very few protections and no job security. The Coalition is united in its belief of the detrimental effects that precarious work has on all members of society. First, precarious work contributes to the erosion of stable, decently paid and often unionized work. Second, those working in precarious jobs suffer a great deal. Third, it provides disincentives to workers to negotiate just and stable working conditions. Finally, it prevents workers from qualifying for certain social benefits. Quebec’s existing laws and regulations are wholly inadequate in offering protection to those working in atypical, precarious jobs. Moreover, these laws and regulations have perpetuated the systemic discrimination of certain workers in Quebec, particularly temporary agency workers, temporary foreign workers and domestic workers. The laws and regulations in Quebec need to reflect this changing nature of work in order to ensure that all workers enjoy equal rights and protections.

Given these circumstances, the Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity, the Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness, and the Ministry of Labour all have the power to make significant changes that would redress problems at both the provincial and federal levels. In regards to the drastic changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program undertaken by the federal government over the summer, the government of Quebec could open the Quebec Experience Program to low-skilled temporary foreign workers. At the same time, more needs to be done with respect to temporary agency workers in Quebec. Two government reports have been issued regarding the situation faced by precarious workers: the first was issued by the Director of Public Health in 2011; and the second, by the Commission des normes du travail de Quebec in 2013. Both outlined the need to address precarious work conditions, and their impact on communities and workers.

It is within this context that we are requesting a meeting with you. The previous Minister of Labour, Agnes Maltais, held a meeting with the coalition, to no avail. A letter was also presented to the Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness. Again, we received no response. We believe that the demands outlined below by the Coalition (see Appendix 2) are within the means of the government

of Quebec and the Ministry of Labour and would tremendously impact the lives of the 450,000 precarious workers as well as all those living in Quebec.

Our objectives for this meeting are threefold. First, the Coalition wants to know how the current government plans to address the issue of precarious work. More specifically, how does the current government plan to take up the work of the previous government with respect to the drafting of a new law on precarious work? Second, the Coalition would like to offer its perspective on the phenomenon and its members are eagerly looking forward to sharing their personal experiences and concerns. Lastly, we have requested this meeting to reiterate our demands for change to existing labour law and policy. These changes would not only improve the quality of life and work for those who hold precarious jobs, but would improve the quality of life and work for all Quebecers.

We are available to meet at your earliest convenience. Please let us know what other information we can provide to move this meeting forward. Please RSVP to:

Eric Shragge
President, Immigrant Workers Centre iwc-cti@yahoo.com
514-342-2111

We look forward to meeting with you.

Sincerely,

The Coalition against Precarious Work

Dignidad Migrante
Immigrant Workers Centre
Mexicans united for Regularization (MUR) Pinay, Filipino Women’s Organization of Quebec Spanish Immigrants Collective of Montreal Temporary Agency Workers Association Temporary Foreign Workers Association

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