Recent immigrants paid below minimum wage: Scarborough event told

News Jun 11, 2013 by Mike Adler Scarborough Mirror

It’s common for Mandarin-speaking recent immigrants in Toronto to be paid less than Ontario’s minimum wage or to be denied overtime pay and paid vacations employers owe them, a community group’s survey has found.

Released Saturday, June 8, the survey of 300 workers this year says 20 per cent - one in five - said they were being paid less than $10.25 an hour, the legal minimum.

Only about half (53 per cent) said they receive paid public holidays, “which indicates that many employers within Toronto’s boundaries are blatantly breaking the law,” the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter said in a report, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

The group’s research, partly funded by the city, also found 77 per cent of newcomers who arrived from China less than seven years ago never get extra pay for overtime, even though it’s mandatory after 44 hours are worked in a week.

CCNC Toronto concluded such workers were either unaware overtime pay was the law or have been intimidated into accepting they’ll receive none.

The report also says 55 per cent of those surveyed don’t receive paid vacation time off or vacation pay, news the group called “extremely concerning.”

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act may have been strengthened in 2009, but enforcement is “very weak” so the law doesn’t really protect workers, Beixi Liu of the advocacy group Workers’ Action Centre told a press conference at the Scarborough Civic Centre.

“We know the problem there, but most importantly what do we do about it?” said Lu, who charged most companies caught breaking the act face only mediation, or more rarely, a small fine.

Knowing this makes them confident about breaking the law, he said, adding the province won’t do anything to change this “if we don’t push them.”

During a presentation, Holly Du, an instructor at Toronto’s Workers Health and Safety Centre held up newspaper page with photos of a June 5 fire at a chicken processing plant in northeast China in which 120 workers were killed.

Only one door in the plant was unlocked, said Du, who kept an image of the burned factory’s interior on the wall behind her.

In Mandarin, Du asked a few dozen people, most immigrants from China who filled out the survey or helped CCNC Toronto do the research, “Do you think you are good citizens who obey and follow the law?”

A lot of hands went up. But Du then asked the audience if they knew the law on workplace safety, arguing they cannot follow the law if they don’t understand it.

She later said recently-arrived Chinese immigrants know very little - the survey said half had never heard of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and only a quarter received relevant training.

Du said she used the fire images to show them why occupational health and safety is important, as are the rights it protects. “It’s life and death, it’s health and illness.”

Tommy Zheng, the survey’s co-ordinator, said recent immigrants more likely to accept lower wage jobs, unsafe conditions and abuse.

CCNC Toronto recruited 30 volunteer researchers the group felt could benefit from workshops on Ontario’s employment laws, before asking workers 33 questions in English and Chinese, online or in face to face interviews, between February and April.

Zheng said 70 per cent didn’t know where to seek help for unfair treatment.

“Language was a major barrier to making formal complaints and understanding rights and safety,” he said, agreeing such experiences might be found in other immigrant communities and that “older immigrants sort of take advantage of newer immigrants” by paying them less.

Dylan Gao, one of the volunteer researchers, said the job was difficult.

“People are busy in Toronto. They don’t want to talk to strangers,” said Gao, who works part time at a call centre but was a market researcher in China.

While Gao wasn’t surprised by the survey results, “at least it let me know how serious the problem is,” he said.

People are making sacrifices to get jobs, which encourages employers to break the law, because “you can always find people” ready to step in, Gao added.

A quarter of the survey respondents worked 44 to 60 hours a week, and 14 per cent held two jobs.

It’s now illegal for temporary employment agencies recruiting in Ontario to ask workers for a fee in return for a job, but a quarter (24 per cent) of those surveyed paid a fee anyway.

More than a third (38 per cent) of those who did said they paid between $100 and $250.

One third also said they had been injured on the job during their time in Canada.

The province’s labour ministry’s enforcement and outreach efforts “focus a lot on reaching those people who may be more vulnerable,” William Lin, a spokesperson, said on Monday.

The ministry is in the middle of a four-month inspection blitz paying particular attention to workplaces with employees who are newcomers or whose first language isn’t English or French, he added.

Since 2011, the ministry has operated an Employment Standards Information Centre phone line (1-800-531-5551) in 23 languages, from Arabic to Vietnamese, and its website (www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/) has fact sheets on employment law translated into languages including traditional and simplified Chinese.

More on the survey is available at the CCNC Toronto website, http://www.ccnctoronto.ca/?q=en

Recent immigrants paid below minimum wage: Scarborough event told

News Jun 11, 2013 by Mike Adler Scarborough Mirror

It’s common for Mandarin-speaking recent immigrants in Toronto to be paid less than Ontario’s minimum wage or to be denied overtime pay and paid vacations employers owe them, a community group’s survey has found.

Released Saturday, June 8, the survey of 300 workers this year says 20 per cent - one in five - said they were being paid less than $10.25 an hour, the legal minimum.

Only about half (53 per cent) said they receive paid public holidays, “which indicates that many employers within Toronto’s boundaries are blatantly breaking the law,” the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter said in a report, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

The group’s research, partly funded by the city, also found 77 per cent of newcomers who arrived from China less than seven years ago never get extra pay for overtime, even though it’s mandatory after 44 hours are worked in a week.

CCNC Toronto concluded such workers were either unaware overtime pay was the law or have been intimidated into accepting they’ll receive none.

The report also says 55 per cent of those surveyed don’t receive paid vacation time off or vacation pay, news the group called “extremely concerning.”

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act may have been strengthened in 2009, but enforcement is “very weak” so the law doesn’t really protect workers, Beixi Liu of the advocacy group Workers’ Action Centre told a press conference at the Scarborough Civic Centre.

“We know the problem there, but most importantly what do we do about it?” said Lu, who charged most companies caught breaking the act face only mediation, or more rarely, a small fine.

Knowing this makes them confident about breaking the law, he said, adding the province won’t do anything to change this “if we don’t push them.”

During a presentation, Holly Du, an instructor at Toronto’s Workers Health and Safety Centre held up newspaper page with photos of a June 5 fire at a chicken processing plant in northeast China in which 120 workers were killed.

Only one door in the plant was unlocked, said Du, who kept an image of the burned factory’s interior on the wall behind her.

In Mandarin, Du asked a few dozen people, most immigrants from China who filled out the survey or helped CCNC Toronto do the research, “Do you think you are good citizens who obey and follow the law?”

A lot of hands went up. But Du then asked the audience if they knew the law on workplace safety, arguing they cannot follow the law if they don’t understand it.

She later said recently-arrived Chinese immigrants know very little - the survey said half had never heard of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and only a quarter received relevant training.

Du said she used the fire images to show them why occupational health and safety is important, as are the rights it protects. “It’s life and death, it’s health and illness.”

Tommy Zheng, the survey’s co-ordinator, said recent immigrants more likely to accept lower wage jobs, unsafe conditions and abuse.

CCNC Toronto recruited 30 volunteer researchers the group felt could benefit from workshops on Ontario’s employment laws, before asking workers 33 questions in English and Chinese, online or in face to face interviews, between February and April.

Zheng said 70 per cent didn’t know where to seek help for unfair treatment.

“Language was a major barrier to making formal complaints and understanding rights and safety,” he said, agreeing such experiences might be found in other immigrant communities and that “older immigrants sort of take advantage of newer immigrants” by paying them less.

Dylan Gao, one of the volunteer researchers, said the job was difficult.

“People are busy in Toronto. They don’t want to talk to strangers,” said Gao, who works part time at a call centre but was a market researcher in China.

While Gao wasn’t surprised by the survey results, “at least it let me know how serious the problem is,” he said.

People are making sacrifices to get jobs, which encourages employers to break the law, because “you can always find people” ready to step in, Gao added.

A quarter of the survey respondents worked 44 to 60 hours a week, and 14 per cent held two jobs.

It’s now illegal for temporary employment agencies recruiting in Ontario to ask workers for a fee in return for a job, but a quarter (24 per cent) of those surveyed paid a fee anyway.

More than a third (38 per cent) of those who did said they paid between $100 and $250.

One third also said they had been injured on the job during their time in Canada.

The province’s labour ministry’s enforcement and outreach efforts “focus a lot on reaching those people who may be more vulnerable,” William Lin, a spokesperson, said on Monday.

The ministry is in the middle of a four-month inspection blitz paying particular attention to workplaces with employees who are newcomers or whose first language isn’t English or French, he added.

Since 2011, the ministry has operated an Employment Standards Information Centre phone line (1-800-531-5551) in 23 languages, from Arabic to Vietnamese, and its website (www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/) has fact sheets on employment law translated into languages including traditional and simplified Chinese.

More on the survey is available at the CCNC Toronto website, http://www.ccnctoronto.ca/?q=en

Recent immigrants paid below minimum wage: Scarborough event told

News Jun 11, 2013 by Mike Adler Scarborough Mirror

It’s common for Mandarin-speaking recent immigrants in Toronto to be paid less than Ontario’s minimum wage or to be denied overtime pay and paid vacations employers owe them, a community group’s survey has found.

Released Saturday, June 8, the survey of 300 workers this year says 20 per cent - one in five - said they were being paid less than $10.25 an hour, the legal minimum.

Only about half (53 per cent) said they receive paid public holidays, “which indicates that many employers within Toronto’s boundaries are blatantly breaking the law,” the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter said in a report, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

The group’s research, partly funded by the city, also found 77 per cent of newcomers who arrived from China less than seven years ago never get extra pay for overtime, even though it’s mandatory after 44 hours are worked in a week.

CCNC Toronto concluded such workers were either unaware overtime pay was the law or have been intimidated into accepting they’ll receive none.

The report also says 55 per cent of those surveyed don’t receive paid vacation time off or vacation pay, news the group called “extremely concerning.”

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act may have been strengthened in 2009, but enforcement is “very weak” so the law doesn’t really protect workers, Beixi Liu of the advocacy group Workers’ Action Centre told a press conference at the Scarborough Civic Centre.

“We know the problem there, but most importantly what do we do about it?” said Lu, who charged most companies caught breaking the act face only mediation, or more rarely, a small fine.

Knowing this makes them confident about breaking the law, he said, adding the province won’t do anything to change this “if we don’t push them.”

During a presentation, Holly Du, an instructor at Toronto’s Workers Health and Safety Centre held up newspaper page with photos of a June 5 fire at a chicken processing plant in northeast China in which 120 workers were killed.

Only one door in the plant was unlocked, said Du, who kept an image of the burned factory’s interior on the wall behind her.

In Mandarin, Du asked a few dozen people, most immigrants from China who filled out the survey or helped CCNC Toronto do the research, “Do you think you are good citizens who obey and follow the law?”

A lot of hands went up. But Du then asked the audience if they knew the law on workplace safety, arguing they cannot follow the law if they don’t understand it.

She later said recently-arrived Chinese immigrants know very little - the survey said half had never heard of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and only a quarter received relevant training.

Du said she used the fire images to show them why occupational health and safety is important, as are the rights it protects. “It’s life and death, it’s health and illness.”

Tommy Zheng, the survey’s co-ordinator, said recent immigrants more likely to accept lower wage jobs, unsafe conditions and abuse.

CCNC Toronto recruited 30 volunteer researchers the group felt could benefit from workshops on Ontario’s employment laws, before asking workers 33 questions in English and Chinese, online or in face to face interviews, between February and April.

Zheng said 70 per cent didn’t know where to seek help for unfair treatment.

“Language was a major barrier to making formal complaints and understanding rights and safety,” he said, agreeing such experiences might be found in other immigrant communities and that “older immigrants sort of take advantage of newer immigrants” by paying them less.

Dylan Gao, one of the volunteer researchers, said the job was difficult.

“People are busy in Toronto. They don’t want to talk to strangers,” said Gao, who works part time at a call centre but was a market researcher in China.

While Gao wasn’t surprised by the survey results, “at least it let me know how serious the problem is,” he said.

People are making sacrifices to get jobs, which encourages employers to break the law, because “you can always find people” ready to step in, Gao added.

A quarter of the survey respondents worked 44 to 60 hours a week, and 14 per cent held two jobs.

It’s now illegal for temporary employment agencies recruiting in Ontario to ask workers for a fee in return for a job, but a quarter (24 per cent) of those surveyed paid a fee anyway.

More than a third (38 per cent) of those who did said they paid between $100 and $250.

One third also said they had been injured on the job during their time in Canada.

The province’s labour ministry’s enforcement and outreach efforts “focus a lot on reaching those people who may be more vulnerable,” William Lin, a spokesperson, said on Monday.

The ministry is in the middle of a four-month inspection blitz paying particular attention to workplaces with employees who are newcomers or whose first language isn’t English or French, he added.

Since 2011, the ministry has operated an Employment Standards Information Centre phone line (1-800-531-5551) in 23 languages, from Arabic to Vietnamese, and its website (www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/) has fact sheets on employment law translated into languages including traditional and simplified Chinese.

More on the survey is available at the CCNC Toronto website, http://www.ccnctoronto.ca/?q=en