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Report/Press release

 Citizenship and Precarious Labour in Canadian Agriculture

This document is a key resource

Date

2015-11-18

Authors

Gerardo Otero and Kerry Preibish

Abstract

DISCUSSIONS ABOUT LOCAL FOOD and sustainable agriculture have not generally considered employment conditions for agricultural workers. However, in British Columbia almost all of these workers are immigrants and migrants, subject to coercive employment practices with serious con- sequences for health and safety. Farmworkers’ fear of losing hours or jeopardizing their employ- ment leads them to accept unsafe work or transportation, work long hours, work while ill or injured and, in the case of migrants, acquiesce to poor housing. Meanwhile, regulations and enforcement for this sector are very weak. Certainly our current food system can’t be seen as “sustainable.”
This study explores how citizenship status affects agricultural employment, and makes comprehen- sive recommendations for change. Our research included questionnaires with 200 farmworkers; 53 in-depth interviews with stakeholders (farmworkers, growers, industry representatives, advocacy groups and Canadian and Mexican civil servants); and a detailed review of secondary data.

Responsible institution

Canadian Center for Policy Alternative

Notes

Precarious status identi es individuals or groups to whom the following applies: “the absence of permanent residence authorization; lack of permanent work authorization; depending on a third party for residence or employment rights; restricted or no access to public services and protections available to permanent residents (e.g. health care, education, unionization, workplace rights); and deportability.”61 The concept of pre- carious status goes beyond either/or categorizations of migrant farmworker status (e.g. irregular/ regular, undocumented/documented, etc.) and recognizes the overlap or fuzziness between such categories and the membership norms, rights, regulations, public bene ts and so forth associated with each.

On average, South Asian immigrant farmworkers were older, married women who came from India as Family Class immigrants and now held Canadian citizenship (65 per cent) or permanent resi- dence (35 per cent). Most had very little formal education: more than a fth lacked primary school education. Conversely, Mexican migrants were generally young, married men and had completed junior high school or higher. A majority were from the most populous (and poorest) central and southern states of Mexico, and more than half spoke an indigenous language, a strong indicator of indigeneity. While South Asian survey participants included mixed numbers of newcomers and longer-settled immigrants, the majority of Mexican migrants (84 per cent) had just begun their labour trajectories in Canada, and over three-quarters had only worked in British Columbia.

A further principal nding was that most farmworkers — 74 per cent of Mexican migrants and 70 per cent of South Asian immigrants—did not receive health and safety training for their jobs at their principal worksite.

File Attachments

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  • online (https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/BC%20Office/2015/11/CCPA-BC_CitizenshipPrecariousLabourCdnAgri_web.pdf)

Keywords

precarious employment, training barriers, language barriers, coercive labour practices

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Content types

Statistics on work and life conditions and Systemic/state violation of right/freedom

Target groups

Policymakers, Public awareness, and Researchers

Geographical focuses

México, British Columbia, and Guatemala

Spheres of activity

Agriculture

Languages

English