Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montreal, June 9, 2011---Despite the investigator's recommendation to close the case, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission (CDPDJ) has decided to continue its investigation into complaints of racial discrimination at a rehabilitation center for people with intellectual disabilities or pervasive developmental disorders.

Since 2007, several workers from a variety of backgrounds have lodged complaints against the Lisette-Dupras rehabilitation centre (LDRC), as well as an employment agency and a labor union.

For a number of years, the LDRC has obtained the services of hundreds of social workers and client care attendants through employment agencies, such as the Service d'aide domestique (SAD) and the Service d'aide aux personnes handicapées (SAPH), in order to serve its customers. Although the work takes place at the center, the workers are technically employees of the agencies. They receive a lower salary at $10-$12 an hour for a job that is normally worth between $17 and $19 an hour, according to the salary scale for the health and social services sector. Furthermore, they are not eligible for the retirement plan or other social benefits available to public-sector workers in the equivalent position.

The majority of workers employed by these agencies (around 75%) are immigrant women, particularly Haitian, Arab and Latin American women. The fact that a majority of these workers come from racialized minorities has a knock on effect for Quebecers working for these agencies and the LDRC, who are also subject to the same unfavorable conditions. It should be noted that rehabilitation centres are part of the Quebec health and social services system and, like hospitals, are therefore financed by the Ministry. They are also regulated by the Act respecting equal access to employment in public bodies, the provincial mandatory employment equity law.

In 2008, around fifty SAD employees from a variety of backgrounds filed a complaint with the CDPDJ against the LDRC, the SAD and its union, the Service Employees Union Local 800, an affiliate of the FTQ. Supported by CRARR, these workers have been joined by employees of the SAPH who are set to lodge a second complaint in the coming days.

Mr. Alain Croteau, a SAD employee who started the complaint process, said: “For the first time in Quebec, workers of all backgrounds are uniting to object to racial discriminiation and exploitation in the workplace. It shows the need for solidarity in the fight for equality.”

In total around one hundred people are seeking material, moral and punitive damages from their employers and their union. The total claim could exceed $1 M.

In March 2011, the workers filed a motion with the Commission des relations de travail, with help from the Confédération des syndicats nationaux. The motion sought to make Lisette-Dupras the de-facto employer, which would enable corrective measures to be made to the working conditions. In this same period, the Lisette-Dupras rehabilitation centre has dismissed 130 of its 160 workers.

For Ms. Micheline Alcindor, the branch union chairwoman at the SAPH and one of the victims who involved with the second complaint, the case is vitally important for the women of Quebec. “It is particularly important for immigrant and racialized women who are increasingly the first people to be affected and exploited by sub-contracting in the health sector. Health care is being slowly privatized but neither our union nor the Ministry are doing much to protect these women.”

“Community-based health care service delivery, with increased sub-contracting and three-way agreements between a center, an agency and the workers, has become complex,” said Fo Niemi, CRARR Executive Director. “We need to update our traditional concepts in order to understand this new form of racial and sexual discrimination in the workplace.”

“Despite the Commission's problematic handling of this complaint over the past three and a half years, we are confident that these workers will ultimately be successful,” he concluded.