Legal Challenge to Employer-Specific Work Permits Being Prepared
The organization Rights of Household and Farm Workers (RHFW) is preparing a constitutional challenge to the employer-specific work permit for migrant workers next year, as a step towards ensuring that the state respects household and farm workers’ constitutional rights to fundamental liberty, security of the person, and access to justice. The permits require a migrant worker to work at a specific employer with no right to seek other employment, if they so choose.
RHFW Executive Director Eugénie Depatie-Pelletier states: “Non-freedom on the labour market creates a system that provides employers with a very tempting power to use to illegally extract the maximum from the employee as quickly as possible, irrespective of the impact on that worker’s body, spirit, or family. It creates a system that imposes upon all employers concerned not only obedient workers and therefore flexible to the extreme, but in addition creates workers who are easily disposable, who can be relatively easily removed from the legal labour market in the case of non-obedience, complaints, work accidents, occupational disease or even inconvenient parenthood.
“This creates a system of abuse that can and does become the norm, that for workers creates an obstacle to the general exercise of their rights, a system that avoids the application of the rule of law, that cannot be justified within a system that claims to be free.”
“The human dignity of all household and agricultural workers must be respected, even when they are employed under temporary legal status,” Eugénie says. “The right to leave one’s job and to change employers must be recognized as fundamental. It is more than time that the human and social costs associated with maintaining these workers within such conditions of servitude are evaluated.
“Our [constitutional challenge] has the potential to give rise to a major and lasting change of paradigm. Our recourse is necessary. We have the legal framework, we have the arguments, we have the evidence. We’re ready … to fight!”