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Report/Press release

MIGRANT FARM WORKERS MUST REPRESENT THEIR OWN INTERESTS DURING UPCOMING BILATERAL TALKS

Date

2004-11-29

Authors

Justicia for Migrant Workers

Abstract

Farm worker advocacy groups demand worker representations during negotiations.

Series title

Justice For Migrant Workers

Full text

(Toronto) On the eve of bilateral discussions between Canada and Mexico scheduled for Montreal commencing on Tuesday November 30, 2004, Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW), a Toronto-based seasonal agricultural workers advocacy group is currently demanding better working and living conditions for migrant farm workers in Canada.

Tens of thousands of migrant farm workers work from eight weeks to eight months a year under indenture-like conditions in the Canadian agricultural industry. Over the past several years, workers have complained about their working and living conditions. Some of these conditions include the following:

*Health and Safety legislative protection: Thousands of farm workers are not covered by health and safety legislation. This means that workers do not receive adequate health and safety training, they do not know what pesticides or dangerous chemicals that they work with. In 2002 Jamaican farm worker Ned Livingstone Peart died while working in the tobacco fields near Brantford, Ontario. There still has not been a coroners investigation into his death.

*Job discrimination: Workers have told representatives of J4MW that they receive less pay than Canadian workers working side by side with them in the fields of southern Ontario.

*Right to Employment Insurance: In 2001 it was estimated that migrant farm workers put into the EI fund over $11 million a year yet they are denied to apply for returns from this program. The federal government must create a regime whereby migrant farm workers can claim employment insurance.

*Right to regularization: Workers must have the right to apply for
citizenship in Canada. Since 1966 workers have been simply seen as a
labour force that is brought and then returned after their contract is
over. Many workers want the right to apply for Canadian citizenship. The government must listen to their needs and implement a process whereby workers can apply for Status in Canada.

*The Right to be treated with respect and dignity: Workers consider
themselves to be an invisible workforce that have little clout when
dealing with either employers or governmental officials. It is essential
that migrant farm workers are covered by legislative protection that
guarantees minimum labour standards. This must includes full coverage
under Ontario's Employment Standards Act, Fair and decent housing, the right to form unions and the right to social and economic mobility in
Canada.

*Right to Appeal: Workers have complained that they work in virtual
bondage. Several workers have documented cases where their colleagues have faced reprisal for standing up to demand better work and living conditions. Reprisals take the form of premature repatriations where workers are sent home usually at their own expense. An appeal process must be implemented to guarantee that migrant farm workers have the right to a fair and impartial process where they can tell their side of their story.

Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is demanding that workers and worker representative organizations be included during upcoming negotiations in order to develop contracts that serve in the best interest of workers. At the moment, workers have no say, nor any representation in contract discussions that directly impact their well being.

"How dare government officials negotiate without taking in the best
interests of workers", states Tanya Ferguson, a member of the J4MW
collective. Furthermore, "is absurd that workers do not have
representation in these talks considering the importance of migrant labour there in the Canadian agricultural industry," adds Ferguson.

For more Information, please contact: info@justicia4migrantworkers.org

Links

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Content types

Policy analysis

Target groups

Policymakers and Public awareness

Regulation domains

Right to change employer, Right to choose place of residence, Right to unionize, Labour standards, Health and safety at work, Newcomers integration programs, Health care & social services, Access to permanent status, Free employment services, Family reunification, Legal aid, Employment insurance, Social security, Remittances and co-development programs, Trips abroad and re-entries, Recrutement / placement agencies, Housing standards, Migration expenses reimbursement mechanisms, Impartial hearing before deportation, Status regularization procedures, Determination fair wages and labour shortage, (Im)migrant workers selection criteria, Right to equality (gender), Right to equality (national origin), Right to equality (social status), Right to liberty, Right to dignity, and Right to privacy

Geographical focuses

Ontario, México, and Quebec

Languages

English