Thursday, August 11, 2022

Ontario’s NSN fights for wage theft of international students

The Naujawan Support Network, a collective of international students and migrant workers from Punjab, India, has won back more than $200,000 Canadian ($154,000 U.S.) in stolen wages in just over a year

PRAVASISAMWAD.COM

Naujawan Support Network members marched on Sukh Auto some time ago with one demand: the owner pay a former worker the thousands he was owed in wages and vacation pay.

The move in Brampton, Ontario, by a small team of young organizers has begun paying off.  The Naujawan Support Network, a collective of international students and migrant workers from Punjab, India, has won back more than $200,000 Canadian ($154,000 U.S.) in stolen wages in just over a year.

“We started a year ago because we observed that there was an increase in suicides among international students,” said Simran Dhunna, one of the founding members of NSN. “Every week we would see GoFundMes raising funds to cover the costs of sending the corpse of a young worker back home. A big reason behind it was the exploitation people faced.”

Over 30 per cent of international students in Canada come from India, and while enrollment of Indian students in Canada has increased by nearly 200 percent over the last five years, many are struggling.

NSN members say they were inspired by the Indian farmer protests, when tens of thousands of farmers occupied the borders of Delhi from August 2020 to December 2021 until India’s Farm Bills were taken back

International students in Canada are limited by their student visas to parttime work, totaling no more than 20 hours per week. To keep up with the cost of living, they often work “under the table”.

In Brampton, international students commonly work at small businesses such as restaurants and logistics contractors. Conditions are brutal, with workers often paid below minimum wage.

Take the case of Satinder Kaur Grewal who said she was paid $100 Canadian ($77 U.S.) per day for 12-hour workdays at Chat Hut, an Indian restaurant in Brampton. Chat Hut had promised to support her permanent residency application, a tactic many employers of international students use to keep workers in line. After protesting with NSN, Satinder received $16,495 Canadian ($12,705 U.S.) back pay from Chat Hut in February.

NSN runs awareness campaigns to inform international students that they are eligible to file claims for stolen wages with Canada’s Ministry of Labour, even if their employer paid them in cash under the table. But because the claims process is often long and arduous—and results in only partial wage repayment—NSN has taken a hands-on, direct-action approach to recover stolen wages directly from employers.

NSN members say they were inspired by the Indian farmer protests, when tens of thousands of farmers occupied the borders of Delhi from August 2020 to December 2021 until India’s Farm Bills were taken back.

“What we have learned from our history back home is that we have to have the courage to fight for ourselves. We emphasize self-organization, independent organization led by workers themselves.”

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Gyanendra
(Gyanendra has been teaching and writing for the last 15 years. His passion for teaching keeps him engaged. He keeps a keen interest in Sports and Current Affairs.)

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