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Report/Press release

Agriculture Workers Alliance Bits and Bites 2(24)

Date

2009

Authors

Agriculture Workers Alliance

Abstract

- Labour Relations Commission refuses to hear, by videoconference, a Guatemalan farm worker wishing to challenge his dismissal

- Commemorating the 2nd Anniversary of Patricia Pérez’s death

- Report on Farm Workers’ Health and Safety in British Columbia Released

- Black Eagle Dinner Reminder

Series title

AWA E-News

Responsible institution

Agriculture Workers Alliance

Full text

Labour Relations Commission refuses to hear, by videoconference, a Guatemalan farm worker wishing to challenge his dismissal

The Quebec Labour Relations Commission, an administrative tribunal in charge of hearing complaints from workers who were victims of prohibited practices, has denied the request of a migrant farm worker who lives in Guatemala to be heard by videoconference.

The worker was employed by a farm in Quebec under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, but missed some work due to illness. Once the worker recovered, he worked for the rest of the season, but was not recalled for the following season. The worker filed a complaint, but could not afford to return to Quebec for the hearing. Evidence showed that the worker earned $402 CAD per month, which he used to try to support himself, his wife, their children, and his mother. So, in the interest of fairness, the worker’s attorney requested that he be heard through an affidavit, by way of a conference call or videoconferencing.

The Commission denied the worker’s request for remote conferencing, even though the Commission’s procedures and rules of evidence fully allow for the above. The Commission indicated the responsibility for organizing a remote conference is fully that of the complainant and his representatives. The fact that the complainant only speaks Spanish was also cited as problematic by the Commission; therefore, the Commission rejected the worker’s request to appear by videoconference and summoned him to a hearing in January 2010.

Andrea Galvez, coordinator of the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) support center in St. Rémi, Quebec, said she is disappointed by the Commission’s decision, but stressed that this is just another example of the enormous difficulties encountered by foreign farm workers who wish to seek recourse.

“Most of the time, workers involved in these programs find out the Commission has dismissed their complaints against their employers after they’ve returned to their home countries”, said Galvez. “A decision like the one made by the Commission prevents these workers from appealing a dismissal, since they cannot afford to return to Quebec unless they are working under this program. It is a vicious cycle.”

Galvez added that the Commission’s decision highlights the critical need for these workers to unionize and have the right to talk openly about their working conditions, including cases of dismissal. "If the workers were unionized, appeals against non-recalls and unfair dismissals could be moderated between the parties to reflect the inherent difficulties of the program, such as addressing language barriers and workers having to return to their homes countries at the time of dismissal."

Commemorating the 2nd Anniversary of Patricia Pérez’s death

This month we would like to dedicate all of our efforts and triumphs at the AWA to the memory of our sister Patricia Pérez, on the 2nd anniversary of her death.

Sister Patricia succeeded in doing what no one else had ever achieved in Quebec: she organized the first-ever bargaining unit comprising seasonal migrant agriculture workers. That breakthrough came just a week before her death in October 2007 at the age of 52, after a long battle with cancer.

A native of Mexico, sister Patricia fled Mexico to Montreal in 1996 after her social justice activities in her homeland resulted in a masked gunman telling her to leave the country or else. However, Patricia often said she came to Canada for a reason, and that reason was to continue to help her brothers and sisters from Mexico working under the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program.

Our job is just beginning, but Patricia’s legacy and the seed she planted back then continues today. We continue to follow her footsteps and continue to strive to be just as good as she was in advocating for and helping our brothers and sisters from Mexico. And we continue with that same enthusiasm and courage, and we continue to nurture what she started by always shouting: “¡Si se puede! (Yes, we can do it).”

Report on Farm Workers’ Health and Safety in British Columbia Released

Dr. Gerardo Otero, Professor of Sociology and Latin American Studies at Simon Fraser University , and Dr. Kerry Preibisch, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Guelph, have released their findings regarding health and safety issues in B.C. in a recently released report entitled “Farmworker Health and Safety: Challenges for British Columbia.”

The report highlights key issues regarding the health and safety of agriculture workers, and provides recommendations to improve these conditions. Many of the reports interviews were conducted through the AWA Abbotsford Centre. To read the full report, please click on the report’s front page.

Black Eagle Dinner Reminder

This is a reminder that the 10th Annual Cesar E. Chavez Black Eagle Awards Dinner will be held on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at the Ontario Federation of Labour Building in Toronto.

For more information about this event please follow this link http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/event.php?eid=136528303482&ref=mf

Links

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Content types

Policy analysis and Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

Canada, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, Other provinces, Federal, Guatemala, Nova Scotia, and National relevance

Languages

French, English, and Spanish