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Criminal charges not enough, more needs to be done to ensure migrant workers come home alive, say community organizations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oct. 19, 2010 - (Toronto) Community organizations welcome the decision to lay criminal charges against those responsible for the Christmas Eve deaths of four migrant workers killed on the job. However, migrant workers need immigration status on landing and drastic changes in provincial laws to ensure that these unnecessary deaths do not continue.

Fayzullo Fazilov, Aleksey Blumberg, Alexander Bondorev, and Vladimir Korostin tragically fell to their deaths after the scaffolding they were working on collapsed in half on December 24, 2009. A fifth worker, Dilshod Marupov, was severely injured. Only 1 of these 5 workers had permanent immigrant status.

On October 13, nearly a full year later, charges have been laid against three Metron executives and Metron.

“Though I’m glad to see the prosecutor valuing the lives of these migrant workers, the province needs to do more to ensure migrant workers are not forced to work in some of the most dangerous occupations with the least employment protections,” says Chris Ramsaroop of Justice for Migrant Workers – one of the groups who organized the vigil last January for the migrant workers who were killed. (See details: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/391)

Migrant workers come to Canada under a variety of immigration programs. Although these programs differ in some ways, the overarching theme is that workers are dependant upon their employer for immigration status. Undocumented workers are similarly precarious, unable to access job protections for fear of losing their jobs or being turned over to immigration enforcement. “When you’re poor, tied to your work through an employer-specific work permit or have few job options because you don’t have any status, the employer can demand outrageous things from you, including high risk work with little to no safety protections,” says Mohan Mishra from No One Is Illegal-Toronto, another group that organized the vigil.

The number of people admitted to Canada on a temporary basis has been growing faster than the number of permanent immigrants. There are widely held concerns that those workers with precarious immigration status are prevented from accessing the same employment rights and protections as those of permanent residents.

“Workers are unable to stand up for their rights to a safe workplace because it could mean deportation. The government recognizes this but refuses to do anything to prevent this from happening,” says Alberto Lalli, a Community Legal Worker with the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario, a community legal aid clinic for injured workers.

The Christmas Eve deaths were not the only accidents to cause outrage from the migrant worker community. In late September 2010, two Jamaican migrant farmworkers died after inhaling toxic fumes at an apple orchard in Owen Sound. A rally was held outside the Ministry of Labour to demand justice.

Migrants and community organizations are continuing to urge the province to provide real health and safety protection for migrant workers; including more random inspections, corner’s inquests into the deaths of all migrant workers, and protection against reprisals in the form of employer initiated deportation while demanding that all migrant workers have full status upon arrival.

“It’s no coincidence that the men and women performing some of the most dangerous work in the country are racialized migrant workers,” says Ramsaroop. “What makes these jobs dangerous is not the occupation in and of itself – although certainly some jobs like agriculture and construction are more high risk than others – but it’s the lack of protective immigration status needed to ensure workers are free to address health and safety problems in a way that will protect them from reprisal.”

For more information, please contact:
Jessica Ponting, Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario, 416-924-6477 ext 27 / 647-401-9611
Chris Ramsaroop, Justice for Migrant Workers, 647-834-4932
Mohan Mishra, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, 416-270-8947

Background:
No Thanksgiving for migrant workers: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/872459--no-thank...

Justice for Migrant Workers Killed at Work: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/397

Three Charged in Scaffolding Deaths Could Face Life In Prison http://www.thestar.com/news/article/874528--3-charged-in-scaffold-deaths...