The North Star


International students and workers

Worker fights to reclaim stolen wages alongside a growing movement

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In 2022, almost 400,000 international students were enrolled in colleges and universities across Canada—a 43% increase since 2015. With international tuitions averaging $20,000 annually or more, in addition to being gouged by inflated costs of living and new market rents, many of these student-workers are struggling to survive, especially with restrictions that were in place (until very recently) that limited them from working more than 20 hours per week.

International students are often forced into low-wage sectors of the economy due to their accents and "lack of experience" in Canadian labour market, forcing them to take on more than 20 hours per week to survive. But the precarious status of many of these workers in Canada is allowing employers to extort and take advantage of them by threatening to report them to immigration and undermine their study or work permits or future permanent residency applications.

Gaganpreet Kaur—who is owed nearly $10,000 in back pay from her last employer—is only the latest case among a growing movement of workers fighting back against wage theft and other injustices. North Star interviewed Gaganpreet about her case and the general situation facing young Indian workers in Canada.

On Saturday, October 8, the Naujawan Support Network (NSN, Naujawan meaning "young people" in Punjabi) held a protest  outside Parts Avatar's building in Mississauga. NSN is an organization of international students and immigrant workers and volunteers that emerged just over a year ago to fight back against the wage theft and other forms of abuse and exploitation that these workers are facing. Since its founding, NSN has waged dozens of such campaigns and has reclaimed upwards of $300,000 in backpay for workers in its movement.

The day prior to the NSN protest in Mississauga, the Federal government announced that it would lift the 20 hour cap on international students starting November 15, 2022. But the policy shift was announced as a mere temporary measure to adddress Canada's labour shortage, with nothing being said or done about the rampant abuse that this sector of workers is experiencing.

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