Monthly Archives: September 2008

‘Unfree’ B.C. farm labour deserves a better break

Mark Thompson, David Fairey and Arlene Tigar McLaren, Special to the Sun
Published: Thursday, September 25, 2008

The sudden firing and repatriation of 14 Mexican agricultural workers from an Abbotsford greenhouse earlier this month once again highlights the exploitive nature of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).

A growing proportion of British Columbia’s agriculture now depends on hiring migrant SAWP workers who are in practice “unfree.” Their unfree status is deliberately created by federal and provincial governments, both through the substandard regulation workers are subjected to and the virtually non-existent enforcement of what minimal protections exist. The result is that actual labour, health and safety conditions are left to the semi-feudal whims of many individual employers.

B.C.’s agreement with Mexico says migrant workers have the same rights as Canadian workers. Yet SAWP workers come to Canada assigned to a specific employer and lack the fundamental right of free workers to quit and find a better job. Any job transfer must be mediated by the Mexican Consulate, which is not particularly inclined to get invloved. SAWP workers are thus indentured to one employer. If they quit, they are forced to leave the country, and it is virtually impossible for them to return with another employer.
‘Unfree’ B.C. farm labour deserves a better break


Farm workers flown to Mexico to thwart B.C. union vote

Abbotsford, B.C. (19 Sep. 2008) – A group of 14 migrant farm workers at Floralia Plant Growers in Abbotsford have been fired from their jobs and flown home to Mexico after filing papers to join a union.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) said the abrupt action occurred the day after the owners discovered an application to certify the UFCW as bargaining agent for its workers was filed with the B.C. Labour Relations Board (BCLRB).
Farm workers flown to Mexico to thwart B.C. union vote


The B.C. Federation of Labour has called for a public inquiry into the use of migrant farm workers after three of them died at a mushroom plant in Langley on Friday. The workers died after being overcome by an unidentified gaseous substance in an underground pump house. Federation President Jim Sinclair says it’s time for the authorities to start acting to improve safety for the migrants, many of them Mexican or Vietnamese with limited command of English. Mr. Sinclair says the deaths of three migrant farm workers in 2007 when the overcrowded van in which they were travelling overturned should have already induced the provincial government to hold an investigation.

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