March 10, 2012

Mayra and Cristhina's story: still waiting for wages

From the Worker's Action Center in Toronto

We found work in a hotel in the Muskoka area through an agency.  The pay that we received was always $10 per hour, whether we worked overtime or not.  This is less than the minimum wage.  When we left our job, the employer told us that she would not pay us our last cheque.  This employer works with many Latin American people in different hotels, many of them north of Toronto.  It is not only to us that the agency does not want to pay.

We started working with another Toronto agency that does cleaning work in movie theatres.  Because a family member had an accident, we had return back home to our country.  We gave our employer 10 days notice so he could find someone else, and we agreed that on our last day we would receive all our wages, around $3,000 for each of us.  But when we came to get our cheque, the employer told us he would only give us part of the money and the rest would be paid to us later.

When we went back to the agency, we were told the employer wasn't there and we would have to wait at least a week.  We were worried they would not pay at all.  Working with WAC we were able to put pressure on the company to get our wages.  But this agency and many others are taking advantage of people's immigration status, their need to work or the fact that they are women here alone, needing to survive.

Still fighting for our pay!
Even though we had to return home, we are still fighting for our wages from the first agency.  We want to stop these practices from happening to other people.

Wage theft is at a crisis.

Mayra and Cristhina's story illustrates the challenges many women face trying to find decent work where employers follow the law.  Women make up more than half the workforce in Ontario.  Women have the heaviest burden caring for children and loved ones.  Wage theft doesn't just affect us, it affects our families and our communities.   Women are standing up to fight wage theft, but we need support.

However, despite the fact that workplace violations are at a crisis, the government wants to cut $6 million out of Employment Standards enforcement.  In a recent survey of workplace violations, WAC found that 1 in 3 people in low waged jobs face unpaid wages. Now more than ever workers need protection from wage theft.

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