from UFCW Canada, December 6, 2008.
CAMPBELLVILLE, ONTARIO – Dec. 6, 2008 — More than 70 Mexican and Jamaican agriculture workers at a mushroom grow house facility outside of Guelph were fired without notice on December 6, by Rol-Land Farms, a $50 million-a-year, privately owned industrial agricultural corporation that operates a number of mushroom growing operations across Canada. No reason was given for the firings.
The workers were in Canada on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, championed by the Harper government. They were also evicted from the housing provided to them by Rol-Land and are in the process of being repatriated.
“No company should have the right to treat human beings like disposable farm tools,” explained Chris Ramsaroop of Justicia for Migrant Workers, an advocacy group that works with migrant workers across Canada. He added, “these workers have lost everything over night: their jobs, their housing and even their ability to stay and work in Canada. Rol-Land Farms didn’t even issue notices to their employees.”
Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada stated, “the Temporary Foreign Workers program has been designed to allow an employer to have complete power over a worker. In this case Rol-Land Farms was not only the employer but also the landlord and de facto deportation agent.”
“The workers had to make the impossible choice of taking a paid plane ticket back on Saturday or having no plane ticket if they decided to stay,” explained Hanley. “With no housing and no access to other employment many of them are left with no choice but to concede to immediate repatriation.”
“We cannot tolerate such treatment of workers in this country,” said Hanley. “We can’t allow the expansion of programs that create second class residents and workers.”
The fired workers had been only working for Rol-Land Farms for periods ranging from four to eight months. According to the terms of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program workers are issued work visas for two years.
On November 17, 2008 UFCW Canada gained a landmark victory for agriculture workers in Ontario at the Ontario Court of Appeal. The decision struck down the ban on farm unions in the province as a violation of the Charter rights of Ontario’s more than 100,000 agriculture workers. The court has given the McGuinty government 12 months to bring farm workers under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, or draft new legislation respecting the rights of farm workers to unionize.
UFCW Canada in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance operates eight support centres across Canada for agriculture workers. UFCW Canada is Canada’s largest private-sector union with over 250,000 members across the country working in every sector of the food industry from field to table.