do so. ?Pradeep stood there the whole day, holding the cardboard box of ornaments,? says Balendra. That it is a painful memory is obvious. ?He wasn?t dressed for the weather. No proper warm clothes, not even gloves. He fell ill and couldn?t go back. He received no pay for the day?s work.? He worked for one night as a night auditor at a hotel. The next morning a lady called him and said he?d done a good job, that they would call him back if they needed him again. He received no pay for that night?s work. ?It was a reputed hotel chain in downtown Toronto, but what can you do?? Balendra can talk about it today, but she is acutely aware of the problems that arise when one internalizes the stress. She left her daughter for short periods with a neighbour to train as an interpreter. She volunteered at a school, and secured a job as an educational assistant for summer programs. Her translation work helped her get her first job as a peer outreach worker at Access Alliance. But for a major part of this period, she felt helpless, unable to bring in any money, watching her husband struggle as she stayed home with their daughter. ?I remember running home to pick up my daughter and feeling so tense if I was even a few minutes late. It affected my health, it affected my parenting.? Then her mother joined them in Canada and things slowly improved. Pradeep now works as a field technician, installing computers at restaurants. The work is related to what he was doing and he enjoys it, says Balendra. But it has taken the family that came here in 2003 ten years to get to this point. Like Fernando, Balendra agrees that language plays a part in the settlement process for newcomers. Like Fernando, she emphasizes the fact that this is so for some newcomers, certainly not all. Language can be a barrier in an interview, but the level of proficiency required varies from job to job, she points out. When they were new in Canada, she recalls being unable to follow most of the television programs. ?Many of us have studied in English-medium schools. Even in other schools, English is a subject in Sri Lanka. But I couldn?t understand a single word! I wondered what had happened to my English! As time went by, I understood the accent, I read newspapers to familiarize myself with common expressions. I encourage clients who find it difficult to communicate freely to sign up for LINC classes, not only for English, but to learn Canadian idioms, workplace culture, and about Canadian ways.? Balendra gives her clients her own example. She tells them she understands their frustration, but stressing over things will not help them get that dream job. ?I encourage them to think differently. I was a teacher. I wasn?t familiar with what a social worker actually does. Back in Sri Lanka, we think of social workers as people who work for free, but I am in a fulfilling career now. If you are a doctor and it?s going to take you time to get your licence, maybe you could think about working as a sonographer in the meantime or consider options through Second Career.? While Balendra wants to work as a health promoter for which she has to go back to school and get a degree or a diploma, she finds her current job very rewarding. ?It?s interesting. I am able to help people. And their experiences strengthen me, too. If I am worried about money, I think about a client on social assistance. If she can manage, so can I, I tell myself. I am inspired by women who face abuse but get back up on their feet, determined to make a change. They get training, they work hard and they move on. I learn so much from my clients.?

?Precarious employment affects us all?

McMaster University and United Way Toronto recently released findings about the shrinking number of workers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area who have stable, secure jobs. According to the research, 40 per cent of residents are now working in jobs with some degree of precariousness. While the situation is worst for those who are low income, the report revealed a surprising finding: precarious employment now exists across all demographic and socioeconomic groups. ?Precarious employment affects us all,? said Susan McIsaac, the president and CEO of United Way Toronto. The study, titled It?s More Than Poverty: Employment Precarity and Household Wellbeing, shows that people who are precariously employed delay significant life plans like getting married or having children. Families are suffering from rising stress due to uncertainty and many are struggling to access adequate childcare. The full report at www.unitedwaytoronto. com/pepso. NARI MAVALWALLA/DESI NEWS Currently, her priority is to support her family financially, but Acsana Fernando hopes to find work as a community support worker and also explore opportunities at Second Career at some point. ?My main goal is to change the system and educate people about their rights,? she says. Fluent in Urdu, Bangla, Punjabi and English, she is also learning Tamil to help connect better with the newcomers she works with. ?I tell them to never, never, never give up. We made it this far, nothing is impossible for us. We are survivors. ?Always remember that everyone here is an immigrant or their parents or grandparents were immigrants. They faced the same hardships. It takes time. When we learned how to walk as children, we didn?t leap up 10 steps at a time, we had to climb each step one by one. Unfortunately, we are at zero again as newcomers. But we?ll get there, one step at a time.?


Insecure employment leads to increased health care costs, lost tax revenue, and loss of community involvement. The films are part of a Knowledge to Action initiative to spark awareness and action on this research evidence, especially with policy makers,? says Axelle Janczur, executive director of Access Alliance. The two short films were made with the aim of catalyzing change. The participants are calling upon policymakers to, among other things: ? Require equal treatment and equal pay for temporary workers. ? Create joint legal responsibility between the client company and the temp agency for all wages, employment standards, and coverage under the Workers Safety and Insurance Board. ? Eliminate all fees charged by temp agencies from workers for finding temporary work. ? Eliminate the six-month barrier for a worker to be hired at the client company. Links to the films and more information at www.accessalliance. ca/knowledge-to-action. December 2013 Desi News 13

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