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Guatemalan Independence Day: Nothing to Celebrate for Agricultural Workers

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Date

2014-09-15

Authors

Centre des travailleurs et travailleuses immigrants (CTI) and Centro de trabajadoras y trabajadores imigrantes (CTI)

Abstract

We continue marginalized, exploited, and excluded through Quebec’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP)

Newspaper title

Montreal Newswire

Full text

Noé Arteaga, ex-foreign agricultural worker from Guatemala at “Savoura” and volunteer at the Immigrant Workers Centre

The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, are governed byagreements such as the one between Canada and Guatemala. These programs are questioned by academics, activists, and human rights and grassroots organizations due to their systematic violation of human rights. Migrant workers are vulnerable because of their migrant status and the lack of labour regulations. Labour deregulation increases the labour precarity. Labour precarity is increasing not only among temporary migrant workers, but among all immigrant workers as well as Canadian citizens.

Media coverage of Noé Arteaga’s case brought visibility and knowledge of the unfair labour conditions and rights violations that occur within the SAWP. It also called attention to the lack of regulation of employers and recruitment agencies. Noé’s case demonstrated that the problem is not a few “bad apples” – as officials try to make out – but a structural problem in the programs themselves.

Noé Arteaga worked for the agricultural enterprise Savoura. This enterprise fired him in 2008 when he complained about injustices in the workplace and labour conditions. Noé returned to Montreal in 2009 to start legal action against Savoura because of the unjustified dismissal. The action against the SAWP was without legal precedent in Quebec and was an important step to regaining the dignity and rights of temporary agricultural foreign workers. Noé Arteaga demanded reintegration into work, payment of supplementary work hours, a refund of the airline ticket he paid to return to Guatemala when he was fired, and a public apology from the enterprise.

After more than five years, and despite a hunger-strike waged by Noé, the legal action has yet to produce any results. The undue length of the legal process highlights the vulnerability of foreign workers to abuse and exploitation. The difficulties that foreign workers face in seeking justice means that employers can abuse these workers with impunity. Many suffer these violations of their fundamental labour and human rights without any pathway to permanent residency.

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Keywords

Projet de loi 8, travailleurs agricoles

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers and General farm workers

Content types

Policy analysis and Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Journalists, Public awareness, Unions, and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks

Geographical focuses

Quebec and Guatemala

Languages

English