Les autorités canadiennes doivent consolider les bases de la protection des droits des travailleurs migrants.

Les autorités canadiennes doivent consolider les bases de la protection des droits des travailleurs migrants

Des travailleurs migrants mexicains cueillent des fraises sur l’île d’Orléans, Quebec, juillet 2020. © Pierre Desrosiers / Getty Images

Dans un rapport sur les pratiques en matière de recrutement de main-d’œuvre du Mexique pour des emplois au Canada, le gouvernement fédéral est invité à accroître la mobilité professionnelle des travailleurs migrants et à endiguer le prélèvement de commissions par les consultants en immigration, tandis que les administrations provinciales sont appelées à mettre fin à l’exclusion généralisée des travailleurs agricoles de l’exercice de certains droits.
 
Le gouvernement fédéral canadien devrait renforcer la mobilité professionnelle des travailleurs migrants, notamment en supprimant le permis de travail lié à un employeur spécifique, et combler les failles de la législation qui exposent les travailleurs migrants au risque d’être exploités par des consultants en immigration abusifs, déclare aujourd’hui FairSquare dans un rapport de 150 pages sur le recrutement de travailleurs migrants mexicains pour des emplois au Canada.
 
FairSquare Projects est une organisation à but non lucratif spécialisée dans la défense des droits humains, en particulier des travailleurs migrants. Consacré à l’examen des modalités du recrutement de travailleurs et travailleuses du Mexique pour des emplois au Canada, le rapport intitulé Du Mexique au Canada : le point sur le recrutement équitable s’inscrit dans le cadre du projet 5 Corridors, dont le but est d’émettre des orientations sur les mesures que les États peuvent adopter pour garantir que le recrutement soit équitable et conforme à l’éthique.
 
FairSquare recommande également que les autorités fédérales ouvrent l’accès au statut de résident aux travailleurs migrants à bas salaire et renforcent les mécanismes d’indemnisation des travailleurs. Le rapport salue les efforts du Canada dans divers domaines, notamment l’interdiction claire par toutes les provinces du paiement de commissions de recrutement par les travailleurs, l’introduction du permis de travail ouvert pour les travailleurs vulnérables, en 2019, et la mise en place du Réseau de soutien aux travailleurs migrants, initiative visant à améliorer le dialogue entre travailleurs migrants, organisations de la société civile et organes du gouvernement.
 
« La pandémie de COVID-19 a montré combien la contribution des travailleurs migrants était indispensable à la société et à l’économie du Canada, tant pour l’agriculture que pour les soins ou les services essentiels », explique James Lynch, cofondateur et codirecteur de FairSquare.

« Cependant, la situation des travailleurs à bas salaire reste bien trop souvent précaire, soit parce que le droit du travail ne s’applique pas à ces personnes en raison du secteur dans lequel elles travaillent, soit parce que leur situation au regard de la législation sur l’immigration les place dans une relation de dépendance vis-à-vis de leur employeur, soit encore parce qu’elles sont endettées après avoir payé des commissions de recrutement exorbitantes pour pouvoir être dans le pays. »
 
Les travailleurs agricoles, particulièrement exposés
La majorité des 30 000 travailleurs mexicains environ au Canada – qui représentent aux alentours de 10 % de la main-d’œuvre migrante présente dans le pays – sont des travailleurs et travailleuses agricoles saisonniers, qui migrent chaque année dans le cadre du Programme des travailleurs agricoles saisonniers (PTAS), administré par le gouvernement. Grâce à la gestion relativement stricte de ce programme, les travailleurs sont rarement amenés à verser des commissions de recrutement illégales pour migrer. Néanmoins, des plaintes récurrentes ont été déposées par des travailleurs dans le cadre de ce dispositif, concernant notamment des retenues sur salaire non justifiées, des horaires de travail excessifs, voire indécents, et des logements bondés aux conditions insalubres. Une travailleuse de la province de l’Alberta a déclaré à l’équipe de recherche qu’en 2020, pendant la pandémie, ses employeurs avaient dissimulé sa présence et celle de ses collègues aux inspecteurs du gouvernement afin de ne pas révéler le nombre réel de travailleuses par chambre.
 
Le droit du travail canadien est établi à l’échelon provincial et, dans de nombreuses régions du pays, les travailleurs agricoles ne bénéficient pas des protections essentielles des travailleurs. Les chercheurs ont appelé cette pratique « l’exception des travailleurs agricoles ». Dans les provinces de l’Ontario et de l’Alberta, qui accueillent le plus grand nombre de travailleurs migrants mexicains, les travailleurs agricoles ne peuvent se syndiquer et engager des négociations collectives. Par ailleurs, les travailleurs agricoles de plusieurs provinces, dont l’Ontario, le Québec, la Colombie-Britannique et l’Alberta, ne sont pas protégés, à différents degrés, par certains droits élémentaires des travailleurs tels que les limites du nombre d’heures de travail, les pauses quotidiennes, le temps de repos entre deux journées de travail, les jours de repos ou la rémunération des heures supplémentaires. L’Organisation internationale du travail (l’agence des Nations unies pour le monde du travail) a appelé les autorités à repenser l’exclusion des travailleurs agricoles du droit du travail et a critiqué en particulier l’interdiction par la province de l’Ontario de la syndicalisation dans le secteur. Les travailleurs et travailleuses domestiques, ou aides familiaux et aides familiales, se heurtent à des exclusions comparables dans plusieurs provinces.
 
Le permis de travail lié à un employeur spécifique
Pour la plupart des travailleurs migrants employés aux termes du Programme des travailleurs étrangers temporaires (PTET), le permis de travail est « lié à un employeur spécifique » ou « fermé », comme il est parfois appelé, alors que les travailleurs du PTAS doivent obtenir l’autorisation de leur employeur pour changer de poste. La crainte de perdre leur emploi et d’être rapatriés par leur employeur fait que les migrants peuvent difficilement refuser d’exercer des tâches dangereuses ou de travailler pendant un nombre d’heures excessif. Un travailleur agricole mexicain du PTAS a déclaré à l’équipe de recherche que l’impossibilité de changer d’emploi « donne à l’employeur la possibilité d’imposer le plus de travail possible au travailleur, qui ne pourra même pas dire : “ça suffit, je vais chercher du travail ailleurs” ».
 
En 2019, le gouvernement fédéral a mis en place le dispositif des permis de travail ouverts pour les travailleurs vulnérables, afin de « fournir aux travailleurs migrants qui sont victimes de violence, ou qui risquent de l’être, un moyen distinct de quitter leur employeur. » Au cours des 18 mois ayant suivi l’introduction du dispositif, environ 800 permis de travail ouverts ont été délivrés, au rythme d’une dizaine par semaine. Néanmoins, les syndicats et les organisations de la société civile qui aident les travailleurs à obtenir ce permis ont déclaré à l’équipe de recherche que le processus est trop complexe, ce que des fonctionnaires fédéraux ont reconnu.
 
Consultants en immigration et commissions
Toutes les provinces interdisent le prélèvement de commissions de recrutement aux travailleurs migrants, mais les consultants en immigration certifiés sont autorisés à facturer aux migrants des services de conseil en immigration. Or, étant donné qu’un consultant peut exercer simultanément l’activité de recruteur, des prestataires peu scrupuleux peuvent « vendre » des emplois à des travailleurs migrants en leur facturant un service de soi-disant « conseil en immigration ». Comme une personne consultante l’a déclaré à l’équipe de recherche, « le problème vient du fait que c’est en vendant des emplois qu’il y a de l’argent à se faire ».
 
Le rapport invite le gouvernement fédéral à étudier la possibilité d’interdire tout versement de commissions de travailleurs à des consultants en immigration pour une candidature au PTET ou à tout autre programme dans le cadre duquel les permis de travail sont liés à un employeur spécifique.
 
La complexité de la gouvernance du Canada et ses répercussions sur les travailleurs migrants
FairSquare recommande également au gouvernement fédéral et aux administrations provinciales d’améliorer leur coordination et d’harmoniser leurs protections des travailleurs. D’après un document de recherche de 2020 d’Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada (IRCC), la conséquence de la structure de gouvernance fédérale du pays « est une couverture nettement différente en ce qui a trait à la protection offerte aux travailleurs migrants à travers le Canada et des règles incohérentes pour les intervenants concernés, y compris les recruteurs qui exercent des activités dans diverses provinces. » Alors que les provinces du Manitoba, de la Colombie-Britannique et de la Saskatchewan, notamment, ont des dispositifs de certification rigoureux, l’Ontario et plusieurs autres provinces n’obligent pas les recruteurs de main-d’œuvre à se faire enregistrer pour exercer leurs activités, ce que les syndicats et les agences de recrutement appellent à faire évoluer.
 
Les travailleurs migrants disposent d’un large éventail de voies de recours au Canada, mais ils sont souvent tributaires des organisations de la société civile et des syndicats pour identifier celle qu’il leur convient d’emprunter. Le rapport met en évidence le fait qu’aucun financement n’est accordé à l’assistance juridique nécessaire aux travailleurs migrants pour saisir les instances concernées par leurs griefs en matière d’emploi, à moins qu’ils ne relèvent de la traite de personnes. Il recommande que les administrations étudient la possibilité de financer une aide juridique pour aider les travailleurs migrants à déposer des recours aux échelons fédéral et provincial et à mettre en œuvre les procédures connexes, notamment l’obtention d’un permis de travail ouvert en cas de situation d’atteintes aux droits humains.
 
Contexte
Le rapport se fonde sur 59 entretiens approfondis effectués au Mexique et au Canada, notamment avec des travailleurs migrants et travailleuses migrantes, des fonctionnaires, des agences de recrutement, des consultant·e·s en immigration, des employeurs, des ONG, des syndicats, des universitaires, des journalistes et des avocat·e·s. IRCC a fourni une réponse écrite à nos conclusions préliminaires.
 
Les autres pays décrits dans le projet 5 Corridors sont le Koweït, le Myanmar, le Népal, les Philippines, le Qatar, Taiwan et la Thaïlande. Le rapport est disponible dans son intégralité en anglais, avec un résumé des conclusions en français, à l’adresse suivante : fivecorridorsproject.org.
 
Pour tout commentaire, veuillez écrire à Jorge Aceytuno ou à James Lynch.

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Canadian policymakers should build stronger foundations for migrant workers’ rights protection

Canadian policymakers should build stronger foundations for migrant workers’ rights protection

Mexican workers picking strawberries in Quebec, 2020. © Pierre Desrosiers / Getty Images

Report into Mexico-Canada recruitment practices calls on federal government to increase job mobility for migrant workers and to restrict the charging of fees by immigration consultants, while provincial governments should remove blanket exclusions on rights for agricultural workers.

Canada’s federal government should provide increased job mobility for migrant workers, in particular by removing the employer-specific work permit, and remove loopholes that put migrant workers at risk of exploitation of exploitative immigration consultants, FairSquare said today in a 150-page report into the recruitment of Mexican migrant workers for jobs in Canada.

FairSquare Projects is a UK-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, Mexico to Canada: Fair recruitment in review, which examined how workers from Mexico are recruited for work in Canada, was part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment.

FairSquare also recommended that federal authorities expand access to residency to low-wage migrant workers, and strengthen compensation mechanisms for workers. The report commended Canada’s efforts in a range of areas, including the fact that all provinces clearly prohibit worker payment of recruitment fees, the introduction of the open work permit for vulnerable workers in 2019, and the establishment of the Migrant Worker Support Network, an initiative to improve engagement between migrant workers, civil society organisation, and government agencies.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted what a critical contribution migrant workers make to Canada’s society and economy, from agriculture and care to essential services,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s co-founding director.

“But it remains the case that far too many low-wage workers remain in precarious situations, either because they are excluded from labour laws due to the sector they work in, because they are reliant on their employers for their immigration status, or because they are indebted after paying exorbitant recruitment fees to be in the country.”

Agricultural workers at risk
The majority of the approximately 30,000 Mexican workers in Canada – making up approximately 10% of Canada’s migrant workforce – are seasonal agricultural workers, who migrate annually through the government-run Mexico-Canada Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). The relatively strict management of this programme means that workers do not generally pay illegal recruitment fees to migrate. Nevertheless the scheme has seen persistent complaints by workers, including illegitimate pay deductions, excessive and sometimes extreme working hours, and crowded, unhygienic accommodation. One woman working in Alberta told researchers that during the pandemic in 2020 her employers had hidden her and her colleagues from government inspectors in order to conceal the true number of workers staying in each room.

Canadian employment law is set at provincial level, and agricultural workers are excluded from key worker protections in many parts of the country, a practice researchers have termed “farm worker exceptionalism”. In Ontario and Alberta,  provinces which host large numbers of Mexican migrant workers, agricultural workers are not able to unionise and bargain collectively. In addition, agricultural workers in several provinces, including Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta variously lack basic workplace rights such as limits on hours of work, daily rest periods, time off between shifts, rest periods, or overtime pay. The International Labour Organization (the UN labour agency) has called for governments to rethink the exclusion of agricultural workers from labour laws, and has specifically criticised Ontario’s bar on unionisation in the sector. Domestic workers, or caregivers, face comparable exclusions in several provinces.

The employer-specific worker permit
For most migrant workers employed under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), their work permit is “employer-specific”, sometimes referred to as “closed”, while SAWP workers have to obtain the permission of their employer to switch jobs. The fear of losing employment and being repatriated by their employer can make it difficult for migrants to refuse dangerous work or excessively long hours. One Mexican SAWP worker told researchers that the inability to change jobs, “gives the employer the ability to impose everything he can over the worker, then the worker cannot even say ‘you know what, I’m going to look for work elsewhere’.”

In 2019 the federal government introduced the Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers in 2019, “to provide migrant workers who are experiencing abuse, or who are at risk of abuse, with a distinct means to leave their employer”. In the first 18 months of the scheme’s introduction, approximately 800 open work permits were issued, at a rate of roughly 10 per week. However, unions and civil society organisations supporting workers in accessing the permit told researchers the process is overly complex, a concern that federal officials acknowledged.

Immigration consultants and fee payments
All provinces ban the payment of recruitment fees by migrant workers, but registered immigration consultants are able to charge migrants for advice that they provide on immigration. However, since consultants may simultaneously operate as recruiters, unscrupulous operators are able to “sell” jobs to migrant workers and bill them for so-called “immigration advice”. One consultant told researchers that, “the trouble is that selling jobs is where the money is to be made”.

The report calls on the federal government to consider prohibiting worker payments to immigration consultants when they are applying to the TFWP and other programmes where work permits are linked to specific employers.

Complexity of Canadian governance and its effects for migrant workers
FairSquare also calls on the federal and provincial governments to improve coordination and provide more consistent protections for workers. A 2020 Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) research paper points out that the country’s federal governance structure results in “markedly distinct coverage of migrant worker protections across Canada and inconsistency of rules for relevant players, including recruiters active in multiple jurisdictions.” While Manitoba, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan among others have strict licensing systems, Ontario and several other provinces do not require labour recruiters to register in order to operate, a policy which unions and recruitment agencies have called to be reversed.

Migrant workers seeking to make complaints in Canada have a wide range of options, but are often reliant on civil society organizations and unions to help them identify which type of complaint they should bring. The report highlights the fact that there is no funding for legal aid for migrant workers bringing employment cases, unless they can be classified as trafficking, and recommends that governments consider funding legal aid to help migrant workers with the filing of federal and provincial complaints and related processes, including obtaining open work permits in situations of abuse..

Background
The report is based on 59 in-depth interviews in Mexico and Canada, including with migrant workers, government officials, recruitment agencies, immigration consultants, employers, NGOs, trade unions, academics, journalists and lawyers. IRCC provided a written response on our draft findings.

The other countries featured in the Five Corridors Project are Kuwait, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Qatar, Taiwan and Thailand. A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings in French, is available at fivecorridorsproject.org.

For comment please contact Jorge Aceytuno or James Lynch

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Mexico should invest in enforcement to ensure fair recruitment for its overseas workers

Mexico should invest in enforcement to ensure fair recruitment for its overseas workers

Migrant workers from Mexico arriving at Trudeau Airport, Montreal in April 2020. © Canadian Press, via Shutterstock

Report into Mexico-Canada recruitment practices calls on Mexico authorities to invest in its enforcement of private recruitment agencies and to negotiate so that employers pay all recruitment fees associated with Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Mexico requires an effective and sufficiently resourced labour inspectorate if it is to give force to its laws governing recruitment, and should seek to align the Mexico-Canada Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) requirements with ILO standards on recruitment fees, FairSquare said today in a 150-page report into the recruitment of Mexican migrant workers for jobs in Canada.

FairSquare Projects is a UK-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, Mexico to Canada: Fair recruitment in review, which examined how workers from Mexico are recruited for work in Canada, was part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment.

FairSquare also recommended that Mexico revise its labour law and its Employment Agency Regulations (RACT) with a view to empowering the authorities to tackle labour recruitment fraud, including by unlicensed recruiters, and fully empower the Federal Attorney for Labour Protections (PROFEDET) to assist Mexican migrant workers who have been victims of fraud. With specific reference to the Mexico-Canada SAWP, it urged Mexico to hold accountable any official found to have demanded or accepted illegal payments for access to government migration programmes. The report commended Mexico’s strong and clear legal commitment to ensuring that employers, not workers, should pay the costs of international recruitment.

In 2020, Mexicans overseas sent back a record US$40 billion in remittances, with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hailing migrants  as “heroes”.

“Mexico is one of a handful of states around the world which truly grasps the significance and the consequences of fair recruitment for its workers and we can see this in its very clear laws regarding recruitment fees,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s co-founding director. “But laws are only half the battle and to allow migrant workers  to better support their families and contribute to the Mexican economy, and prevent the siphoning of their earnings and remittances by abusive recruiters, there needs to be a dedicated emphasis on the enforcement of these laws, as well as an adoption of the international definition of recruitment fees.”

Recruiters left unsupervised
Recruiters in Mexico engage in widespread fraudulent and abusive practices, and while charging workers for jobs is banned under the country’s Constitution, it is in reality commonplace and enforcement of the legal prohibition is extremely rare. A survey by the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante has suggested that up to 58% of workers going to the US may be charged illegal fees, paying an average of 12,000 pesos (US$590). Informal, unlicensed recruiters are particularly likely to charge fees to workers, but the practice exists among the small number of licensed operators as well. It is common for workers to find that terms and conditions they were promised in Mexico do not materialise on arrival. Experts said that Mexican workers sometimes pay fees, buy themselves tickets, and get as far as airports in Canada, only to find there is no-one waiting for them. The General Directorate of Federal Labour Inspections, within Mexico’s Ministry of Labour (STPS), is empowered to carry out inspections of licensed recruitment agencies, but officials told FairSquare that the inspectorate is mainly focused on employment standards within Mexico rather than on the recruitment agents who deploy Mexican workers abroad.

Civil society organisations report that STPS rarely inspects recruitment agencies, even on receipt of complaints. Most recruiters are in any case unregistered and operate outside the legal framework, with only nine agencies licensed to recruit Mexican workers for jobs overseas. In addition to improving enforcement efforts, FairSquare called on Mexico to increase the information available to migrant workers about their rights to zero-fee recruitment and options to bring complaints against recruiters.

SAWP and recruitment fees
In contrast to other models of outward migration, the SAWP is strictly controlled by the Mexican authorities and allows workers a relatively “safe” migration journey to Canada. Because the SAWP removes the Mexican private sector from the equation, illegal charging of fees to workers appears to be restricted to cases of corruption among officials (which while not rare are not endemic). Workers receive and sign contracts in Spanish, and undergo pre-departure orientation. A 39 year old woman from Oaxaca state, about to begin her seventh season in British Columbia’s SAWP, told us, “I’ve heard about people paying and I actually know people who recruit workers in exchange of large quantities for money, but I have never paid for anything.” 

However, while SAWP workers generally do not pay recruitment fees, they are required every year to pay costs related to recruitment, such as costs related to their work permit, internal transport within Mexico required for this, and part of their airfare to Canada. These charges appear to be out of step with International Labour Organization (the UN labour agency) standards on recruitment fees and related costs, which expect such costs to be borne by employers. Since workers have to go through these processes each year, this can result in them contributing many thousands of dollars to the programme over the course of their time on the SAWP. FairSquare is calling on the Mexican authorities to work with Canada’s federal and provincial governments to press for the alignment of the programme with international standards and stop the payment of these costs by Mexican agricultural workers.

FairSquare also called on the governments of Mexico and Canada to allow workers and their representatives to take part in annual bilateral meetings on the programme, something that they are not currently able to do, and to improve pre-departure information, particularly in relation to Canadian labour protections, which differ substantially depending on province, and federal and provincial complaint mechanisms.

Consular support 
In addition, serious concerns about the SAWP have been raised in the employment phase in Canada, where Mexican consular officials in Canada have a special role in the implementation and monitoring of the programme. Consulates have more resources and authorities available to support SAWP workers than are available for other Mexican workers in Canada, but the large number of workers and the remote locations of farms in Canada places their resources under considerable pressure.

Critics of the SAWP have also accused consular officials of being too close to employers. A female worker told us: “it is like the Consulate is more on the side of employers than of workers, and they just tell you to take care and behave well, and that you came to Canada to work and not to create problems.” The British Columbia Labour Relations Board confirmed in 2014 that the Mexican consulate in Vancouver had identified SAWP workers in contact with unions with a view to blocking them from returning to Canada. These serious concerns notwithstanding, unions and others experts told FairSquare that the provision of consular support by Mexico was much better than other countries not part of the SAWP, and also praised the efforts of some of the Mexican consulates in Canada.

FairSquare is calling on Mexico to provide its missions in Canada with additional resources, and to ensure that they are clearly tasked to prioritise the rights of migrant workers above other concerns. 

Background
A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings in Spanish, is available at fivecorridorsproject.org. The report is based on 59 in-depth interviews in Mexico and Canada, including with migrant workers, government officials, recruitment agencies, immigration consultants, employers, NGOs, trade unions, academics, journalists and lawyers. The other countries featured in the Five Corridors Project are Kuwait, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Qatar, Taiwan and Thailand. 

For comment please contact Jorge Aceytuno or James Lynch

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México debe invertir en el cumplimiento de la legislación para garantizar la contratación equitativa de sus trabajadores y trabajadoras en el extranjero

México debe invertir en el cumplimiento de la legislación para garantizar la contratación equitativa de sus trabajadores y trabajadoras en el extranjero

© Canadian Press / Shutterstock

Un informe sobre las prácticas de contratación en el corredor México-Canadá insta a las autoridades mexicanas a procurar que las agencias de contratación privadas cumplan con la legislación vigente, y a negociar para que los empleadores paguen todas las comisiones de contratación vinculadas al Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales de Canadá.

México necesita un sistema de inspección laboral efectiva y con suficientes recursos para garantizar el cumplimiento de su legislación en materia de contratación, y debe armonizar los requisitos del Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales (PTAT) entre México y Canadá con las normas de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) en materia de comisiones de contratación, ha afirmado hoy FairSquare en un informe de 150 páginas sobre la contratación de trabajadores y trabajadoras migrantes en México para trabajar en Canadá.

FairSquare Projects es una organización no gubernamental de derechos humanos basada en el Reino Unido especializada en cuestiones de derechos de las personas trabajadoras migrantes. El informe De México a Canadá: Revisión de la contratación equitativa, que analiza cómo se contrata a trabajadores y trabajadoras en México para trabajar en Canadá, forma parte del Proyecto Cinco Corredores, que tiene la intención de servir de orientación sobre qué pueden hacer los gobiernos para garantizar la contratación equitativa y ética.

FairSquare también ha recomendado que México haga cambios a su legislación laboral y a su Reglamento de Agencias de Colocación de Trabajadores (RACT) para que las autoridades puedan hacer frente al fraude en la contratación laboral, incluso en el caso de reclutadores no autorizados, y para otorgar plenos poderes a la Procuraduría Federal de la Defensa del Trabajo (PROFEDET) para asistir a los trabajadores migrantes que hayan sido víctimas de fraude. Con referencia específica al Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales (PTAT) entre México y Canadá, la organización pide que el gobierno de México exija responsabilidades a los funcionarios acusados de pedir o aceptar pagos ilegales para poder acceder a los programas de migración
del gobierno. El informe elogia el sólido y firme compromiso legal de México para garantizar que son los empleadores, y no los trabajadores y trabajadoras, quienes deben pagar los gastos que se derivan de la contratación internacional.

En 2020, las personas mexicanas en el exterior enviaron un récord de 40.000 millones de dólares estadounidenses en remesas y el presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador calificó a los migrantes como “héroes”.

“México es uno de los pocos países en el mundo que entiende realmente la importancia y las consecuencias de la contratación equitativa para sus trabajadores y trabajadoras y esto se puede ver en su legislación, que es muy clara en materia de comisiones de contratación”, ha afirmado James Lynch, director y cofundador de FairSquare. “Pero la legislación es solo la mitad de la batalla y para permitir que los migrantes apoyen mejor a sus familias y contribuyan plenamente a la economía mexicana, y para prevenir que reclutadores fraudulentos les roben sus salarios y sus remesas es necesario hacer hincapié en la aplicación de estas leyes, así como adoptar la definición internacional de comisiones de contratación.”

Falta de supervisión a los reclutadores
Las prácticas abusivas y fraudulentas de parte de los reclutadores en México son muy frecuentes y, a pesar de que la Constitución mexicana prohíbe cobrar a los trabajadores y trabajadoras para conseguir un empleo, esta es una práctica habitual y es sumamente raro que se exija el cumplimiento de esta prohibición legal. Según una encuesta del Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, hasta el 58% de los trabajadores y trabajadoras que emigran a los Estados Unidos pagan comisiones ilegales y las tarifas de reclutamiento son aproximadamente de 12,000 pesos (US$590) en promedio. Es muy común que los reclutadores informales y sin licencia cobren comisiones a los trabajadores y trabajadoras, pero esta práctica también ocurre entre los pocos operadores autorizados que hay. Es habitual que los trabajadores y trabajadoras descubran que los términos y las condiciones que se les prometieron en México no se cumplen al llegar a su destino. Según los expertos, en ocasiones los trabajadores y trabajadoras pagan comisiones en México, se compran sus boletos de avión y llegan hasta aeropuertos canadienses antes de descubrir que nadie los espera a su llegada a Canadá. La Dirección General de Inspección Federal del Trabajo, parte de la Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social mexicana, tiene competencias para realizar inspecciones a las agencias de contratación autorizadas pero, como un funcionario explicó a FairSquare, las inspecciones se enfocan sobre todo en las condiciones laborales en México, más que en las agencias de contratación que colocan a trabajadores y trabajadoras mexicanos en el extranjero.

Según organizaciones de la sociedad civil, la Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social rara vez inspecciona a las agencias de contratación, ni siquiera tras recibir una denuncia. En cualquier caso, la gran mayoría de reclutadores mexicanos no están autorizados y operan al margen del marco legal, únicamente nueve agencias en México tienen licencia para reclutar trabajadores y trabajadoras para empleos en el extranjero. Además de mejorar los esfuerzos para aplicar las leyes, FairSquare pidió que México aumente la información disponible para los trabajadores migrantes sobre sus derechos al reclutamiento sin tarifas y las opciones para presentar quejas contra los reclutadores.

Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales y comisiones de contratación
A diferencia de otros modelos de emigración, el Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales (PTAT) está estrictamente controlado por las autoridades mexicanas y garantiza a los trabajadores y trabajadoras un viaje migratorio “seguro” a Canadá. Como el PTAT elimina al sector privado mexicano de la ecuación, el cobro de comisiones ilegales a los trabajadores y trabajadoras se limita a casos de corrupción por parte de funcionarios (que, a pesar de no ser infrecuentes, no son endémicos).

Los trabajadores y trabajadoras reciben y firman sus contratos en español y se les ofrece una sesión informativa previa a su salida. Una mujer de 39 años del estado de Oaxaca que estaba a punto de iniciar su séptima temporada de trabajo en Columbia Británica contratada en el marco del PTAT nos dijo: “He oído casos de personas que tienen que pagar y conozco gente que recluta trabajadores a cambio de grandes cantidades de dinero, pero yo nunca he pagado nada”.

Sin embargo, a pesar de que los trabajadores y trabajadoras contratados en el marco del PTAT no pagan comisiones de colocación, se les exige pagar cada año gastos relacionados con su contratación, como gastos relacionados al permiso de trabajo, al transporte interno en México y parte del boleto de avión a Canadá. Estos gastos parecen ser contradictorios a las normas de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (agencia del trabajo de la ONU) en materia de comisiones de contratación y gastos relacionados, de acuerdo a las cuales estos gastos deberían asumirlos los empleadores. Como los trabajadores y trabajadoras deben pasar cada año por este proceso, pueden llegar a aportar muchos miles de dólares al programa durante el periodo que dura su participación en el mismo. FairSquare pide a las autoridades mexicanas que trabajen con los gobiernos federales y provinciales canadienses para insistir en la necesidad de armonizar el programa con las normas internacionales y que paren el pago de estos costos por parte de los trabajadores agrícolas mexicanos.

FairSquare también pidió a los gobiernos de México y Canadá que permitan que los trabajadores y sus representantes participen en las reuniones bilaterales anuales sobre el programa, algo que actualmente no pueden hacer, y que mejoren la información previa a la salida, particularmente en relación con las protecciones laborales canadienses, que varían sustancialmente según la provincia, así como sobre los mecanismos de denuncia federales y provinciales.

Apoyo consular
También se han planteado serias preocupaciones sobre el período de empleo de trabajadores migrantes bajo el PTAT en Canadá, donde los funcionarios consulares mexicanos en Canadá tienen una función especial en la ejecución y el seguimiento del programa. Los consulados cuentan con más recursos y competencias para apoyar a los trabajadores y trabajadoras que participan en el PTAT que para apoyar a otros trabajadores y trabajadoras en Canadá, pero el gran número de personas trabajadoras y las ubicaciones remotas de las granjas en Canadá ejercen una presión considerable sobre sus recursos. Las personas críticas hacia el PTAT también han acusado a los funcionarios consulares de su cercanía con los empleadores. Una trabajadora explicó: “Es como si el Consulado estuviera más de parte de los empleadores que de los trabajadores, y lo único que nos dicen es que nos cuidemos y tengamos un buen comportamiento, y que hemos venido a Canadá a trabajar y no a causar problemas”.

El Tribunal de Relaciones Laborales de Columbia Británica confirmó en 2014 que el Consulado de México en Vancouver había identificado a trabajadores y trabajadoras del PTAT que habían tenido contacto con sindicatos para impedirles volver a Canadá. A pesar de estas serias preocupaciones, los sindicatos y otros expertos manifestaron a FairSquare que el apoyo consular de México era mejor que el de otros países que no participan en el PTAT y elogiaron los esfuerzos de algunos Consulados de México en Canadá.

FairSquare insta a México a asignar más recursos a sus misiones en Canadá, y garantizar que reciban instrucciones claras para priorizar los derechos de las personas trabajadoras migrantes por encima de otras consideraciones.

Información general
El informe completo, con el resumen de las conclusiones en español, está disponible en fivecorridorsproject.org. El informe se basa en 59 entrevistas en profundidad en México y Canadá, entre otros con trabajadores y trabajadoras migrantes, autoridades del gobierno, agencias de contratación, especialistas en inmigración, empleadores, organizaciones no gubernamentales, académicos, periodistas y profesionales del derecho. Los otros países estudiados en el Proyecto Cinco Corredores son Kuwait, Myanmar, Nepal, Filipinas, Qatar, Taiwán y Tailandia.

Si tienen comentarios pueden contactar a Jorge Aceytuno o a James Lynch.

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Launch of Five Corridors Project

Multi-country study urges wealthy states to take the strain to ensure fair recruitment of migrant workers and prevent abuse

“Five Corridors” Report into recruitment practices in nine countries urges destination states to do more to incentivize fair recruitment, and calls for the end of tied visa systems and discriminatory exclusions from labour protections. Origin states should fully enforce “zero fee” policies for their nationals.

Governments around the world, and particularly governments that host significant numbers of migrant workers, need to take more concerted action to prevent systematic abuses in transnational recruitment processes, a major research study said today. The FairSquare Five Corridors report, based on research in nine countries and five migration corridors, urged states to focus their resources on a series of key priority issues, and urged destination states to assume the burden of incentivizing fair recruitment models.

The Five Corridors project examined the problems faced by low-wage workers in international recruitment processes, as migration for work has increasingly become temporary or “circular”, with workers returning to their origin countries at the end of their contracts. Exploitation in these recruitment processes, which have spawned a global industry of private recruitment agencies to furnish complex labour supply chains, leave many millions of migrant workers around the world acutely vulnerable to serious human rights abuses, including the charging of exorbitant fees in exchange for jobs and deception over terms and conditions.

FairSquare Projects is a London-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The Five Corridors project focused on five labour migration corridors: Myanmar to Thailand; Nepal to Kuwait; Nepal to Qatar; Philippines to Taiwan; and Mexico to Canada.

Ensuring employers, not workers, pay the costs of recruitment
Drawing on more than 300 in-depth interviews with workers, government officials, businesses and activists, the report urges destination states to take more seriously their responsibility as regulators, and ensure that employers pay the full cost of migrant workers’ recruitment. In many countries, businesses expect to be able to hire migrant workers at little or no cost, knowing that the demand for better paid jobs is so high that workers will accept taking on large debts in order to finance their migration, leaving them at greater risk of forced labour and other abuse. In Thailand, Qatar and Taiwan, researchers found that some employers even charge recruitment agencies “kickback” bribes before they allow them to recruit on their behalf.

“Governments have gone to great lengths to show their commitment to tackling human trafficking and forced labour, yet the abusive recruitment processes that fuel exploitation continue,” said Ambassador (retd) Luis C.deBaca, Five Corridors Project senior adviser, who previously coordinated the US government’s global anti-trafficking work. “To date, the complexity of transnational recruitment has made it easy to dodge responsibility — this research fills that critical gap by using a wealth of evidence to chart a path forward for governments to confront this serious issue.”

Tied visas and exclusion from core labour protections
The report also finds that tied visas, which generally restrict migrant workers to a single employer and link their immigration status to their employment, play a major role in undermining fair recruitment, as they leave workers less able to complain or switch jobs in the event of fraud or abuse. All five destination countries in the study operate some form of tied visas. A worker from Myanmar told us his inability to switch jobs in Thailand was “like you are tied up and beaten up”, while a Mexican agricultural worker in Canada said the system “gives the employer the ability to impose everything he can over the worker, then the worker cannot even say ‘you know what, I’m going to look for work elsewhere’.”

Migrant workers working in domestic work, agriculture, fishing are often also excluded from labour laws, meaning they have little protection against being made to work extreme hours, fewer rights to breaks and days off, and may be unable to join trade unions.

“The combined effect of restrictive tied visa systems, leaving workers at risk of losing their immigration status if they complain, with blanket exemptions from basic protections, is to hugely undermine efforts at ensuring workers’ recruitment is genuinely fair,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s founding co-director.

The report also calls on origin states, for their parts, to enforce full prohibitions on worker payment of recruitment fees, and urges all states to put in place more effective grievance systems for migrant workers, and to coordinate better across corridors to prevent abuse, including through considering government-government recruitment programmes.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the drivers of migrant workers’ exploitation. The UN labour agency (ILO) has warned that exploitative recruitment fees are likely to increase in light of the contraction of many economies. While some migrant workers have been celebrated as “key workers”, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs and been stranded in their host countries, often facing stigma and demonisation. In Kuwait, high-profile celebrities blamed migrant workers for the pandemic’s impact on the country, with one calling for them to be “thrown into the desert”, while in Thailand the Prime Minister fuelled xenophobia by blaming migrant workers for spreading the virus and saying they had “brought much grief”.

Background
Recent years have seen an expansion of efforts to develop consensus on the regulatory steps required to ensure fair recruitment. These have been led by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), complemented by the efforts of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), which stewarded the development of the Dhaka Principles. In 2018, the Global Compact on Migration saw UN member states making a series of commitments on fair recruitment.

A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings is available at the dedicated Five Corridors website. In addition to the main report, FairSquare have published separate, in-depth reports for the migration corridors under study. A launch event for the project’s findings is being held on 7 July 2021, in partnership with the IHRB.

For more information please contact James Lynch or Nick McGeehan.

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Five Corridors Project on fair recruitment – launch event

Event: Launch of Five Corridors Project on fair recruitment

FairSquare and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) are holding a joint event on Wednesday 7 July 2021, to discuss the fair recruitment of migrant workers. “Destination, Destination, Destination”: What governments can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment will take place on the day FairSquare publishes its Five Corridors Project, a major research study.

REGISTER TO ATTEND THE EVENT (IHRB SITE)

The Five Corridors Project, which FairSquare has been working on since late 2019, aims to enhance understanding of how governments can strengthen regulatory and enforcement mechanisms to address abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices, resulting in more positive outcomes for workers. More than 300 workers, recruiters, employers, govt officials, activists and other experts have been interviewed as part of the study into the recruitment of migrant workers in five corridors:

1. Myanmar to Thailand 
2. Nepal to Kuwait 
3. Nepal to Qatar
4. Philippines to Taiwan 
5. Mexico to Canada

The study has examined the steps taken by governments to ensure the human rights of migrant workers in the recruitment process, against 44 common indicators based largely on the ILO General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment.

Based on this research, the Five Corridors Project makes a set of key recommendations to destination and origin states, highlighting priority actions to prevent fraud and exploitation in migration and employment. Detailed reports into each corridor will also be made available on the dedicated Five Corridors website, which will go live on 7 July.

FairSquare has delivered the Five Corridors Project with the support of the Open Society FoundationsHumanity United and Porticus.

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FairSquare to take part in Toronto Quayside preliminary HRIA

FairSquare to take part in Toronto Quayside preliminary HRIA

FairSquare Research has been selected, as part of a consortium, to carry out the preliminary human rights impact assessment of Quayside Project in Toronto.

Element AI, a Montreal-based artificial intelligence company, is leading the consortium, which also includes Ravi Naik, a respected litigation and subject matter expert in privacy, data protection and human rights. The preliminary human rights impact assessment has been commissioned by Waterfront Toronto.

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Launch of the Five Corridors Project

FairSquare launches fair recruitment research project

In partnership with Open Societies Foundation and Humanity United, FairSquare Projects is embarking on a major research project on the fair recruitment of migrant workers.

The Five Corridors Project aims to enhance understanding of how governments can strengthen regulatory and enforcement mechanisms to address abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices, resulting in more positive outcomes for workers.

FairSquare is studying the recruitment of migrant workers in five corridors, selected because of the presence of expressed government commitments to reform, opportunities to build on private sector-led initiatives, or civil society organizations who may be in a position to make use of the research:

– Myanmar to Thailand 
– Nepal to Kuwait 
– Nepal to Qatar
– Philippines to Taiwan 
– Mexico to Canada

The study will focus on the role of governments, which play an essential part in ensuring ethical recruitment. There are extensive regulatory frameworks in many countries, but many fail to stamp out the abusive treatment migrants so often face. In comparison to the practical guidance that has been produced in recent years for global companies on steps to recruit ethically, less research has been done with the aim of galvanizing action by governments to address recruitment-related abuses.

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