Historic victory for migrant farm workers


Contract sets new precedent for rights of workers
A breakthrough collective agreement was reached September 21 between UFCW Canada and Floralia Growers of Abbotsford, B.C.
The new UFCW Canada Local 1518 contract provides wage improvements, but is particularly noteworthy for the protections it establishes for the rights of seasonal migrant agriculture workers to return to Canada under the federal government’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).
“We have had a lot interest from migrant farm workers in joining the union,” said Ivan Limpright, President of UFCW Canada Local 1518, “and this contract is a huge step forward in providing the kinds of basic protections and recall rights that migrant farm workers in Canada deserve.”
“These are among the most vulnerable workers in Canada, because too often when workers would dare complain, let alone join a union, the farm employers would make sure they didn’t call those workers back for the next season’s work, or just send them straight back to their home country,” said Limpright.
“This contract establishes a real measure of justice and dignity for the Floralia workers.”
The new contract establishes recall rights for migrant agriculture workers (one of the very important things that was neglected here in Manitoba-Molly ), and the union and employer have agreed to a process for recalling SAWP workers that will enhance workers’ opportunities to return year after year.
In addition, when the growing season slows down and a smaller workforce is needed, a process is now established whereby those volunteering to return home would be the first to go, and if necessary, other workers would then return to their home based on seniority.
“Previously, the workers would be ‘repatriated’, as the employers like to call it, and strictly at the employer’s whim,” said Limpright. “For example, we have had cases where there was a slowdown in the growing season and a worker volunteered to go home because his wife was pregnant or there was another family emergency, but the employer would refuse and send someone else home instead. Now, under this contract, the workers at least have some control over their own fates, and this is a huge and important breakthrough.”
The migrant agriculture workers at Floralia are from Mexico, and make up approximately 90 percent of the Floralia workforce.


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