Monthly Archives: April 2013

Migrant farm workers inhabit precarious working world

The uproar over RBC’s outsourcing scheme has put Canada’s temporary foreign worker program in the spotlight. RBC has issued apologies and promised to find jobs for the employees targeted for replacement, while Stephen Harper’s government is moving quickly to reform the system. But if politicians, business leaders and pundits want to get beyond instant analysis and quick fixes, and if they particularly want to know about life — and death — in one of these temporary foreign worker programs, a golden opportunity is waiting for them right now in Toronto.

Migrant farm workers inhabit precarious working world | Toronto Star



[en français plus bas]

A UFCW Canada Human Rights Department Release

Montreal – April 19, 2013 – In the wake of a historic victory at the Quebec Superior Court, UFCW Canada Local 501 has welcomed the announcement by the Quebec government that it will not appeal the March 11, 2013 decision. The legal fight, to uphold the rights of seasonal agriculture workers to unionize, was commenced almost five years ago.

The successful outcome, and the government’s decision not to appeal, means that seasonal agricultural workers in Quebec will have the same rights to unionize as all other workers in Quebec. In its ruling, the Superior Court gave the Quebec government twelve months to amend its legislation to conform to the court’s March 2013 decision.

“We are very pleased to finally close an important chapter in the legal battle,” says Louis Bolduc, Executive Assistant to the National President of UFCW Canada. “The government’s decision not to appeal is of particular importance since it opens the door to discuss and address what has been a discriminatory situation faced by all seasonal agricultural workers.”

To this end, a meeting was held on April 12, with Quebec Minister of Labour Agnès Maltais. At the meeting, Brother Bolduc and UFCW Canada Local 501 Secretary-Treasurer Mario Délisle had a positive discussion with the Minister regarding issues and priorities in the wake of the ruling. “By initiating this new chapter of dialogue with the government,” says Bolduc, “we have moved one step further in ensuring the rights of agriculture workers in Quebec.”



Un communiqué du Service des droits de la personne des TUAC Canada

Montréal – 19 avril 2013 – À la suite de la victoire historique de la section locale 501 des TUAC Canada en Cour supérieure du Québec le 11 mars dernier, le syndicat qui milite pour le respect et la reconnaissance des droits des travailleurs agricoles depuis près de cinq ans déjà, accueille favorablement la décision du gouvernement de ne pas faire appel.

Le syndicat a d’ailleurs entrepris des démarches auprès du gouvernement afin de s’assurer que les travailleurs agricoles saisonniers obtiennent les mêmes droits que tous les travailleurs au Québec, notamment celui d’adhérer à un syndicat. Rappelons que le tribunal a laissé une période de douze mois au législateur pour intervenir et modifier la loi.

« Nous sommes très heureux d’enfin clore un chapitre important de cette lutte judiciaire. La décision du gouvernement de ne pas interjeter appel revêt une importance particulière puisqu’elle ouvre la voie aux discussions qui permettront de régulariser une situation discriminatoire à l’encontre de tous les travailleurs agricoles saisonniers », d’expliquer Louis Bolduc, adjoint exécutif au président national des TUAC Canada.

À cet effet, une rencontre a déjà eu lieu le vendredi 12 avril dernier entre Louis Bolduc des TUAC Canada, Mario Délisle de la section locale 501 des TUAC et la ministre du Travail, madame Agnès Maltais. Lors de cet échange des plus positifs, les représentants syndicaux ont fait part à la ministre de leurs préoccupations et de leurs priorités. « En amorçant un dialogue avec le gouvernement, nous avons franchi une étape de plus vers le respect des droits des travailleurs agricoles », de conclure Louis Bolduc.

Historic Rights Tribunal to Examine Workplace Deaths of Temporary Foreign Workers

April 17th is the first day of an historic hearing at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The tribunal will examine evidence regarding the workplace death of Jamaican migrant worker Ned Livingston Peart. Mr. Peart was crushed to death while working on a tobacco farm near Brantford, Ontario on August 22, 2002. Mr. Peart was one of over 30,000 migrant workers that toil under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, a government program that brings farm workers from Mexico and the Caribbean to farms across Canada.

The Peart family sought to have a coroner’s inquest held into the death because their communications with Mr. Peart led them to have concerns over dangerous working conditions on the farm. The Office of Chief Coroner denied the request. Working with Justicia for Migrant Workers’ organizers, the family then brought a complaint to the Human Rights Commission in the summer of 2005 claiming that the Coroners Act, which provides mandatory inquests for certain types of workers while excluding others, violates the Ontario Human Rights Code by causing adverse impacts not only on Mr. Peart but all migrant farm workers in Ontario.

This case is of historical importance because it seeks to ensure a safer working environment for all migrant workers in the province by requesting an inquest into Mr. Peart’s death as well as wider systemic reforms in how the Office of Chief Coroner investigates the death of migrant agricultural workers. There has never been a coroner’s inquest into the death of a migrant worker.

“For over ten years, the Peart family has sought answers into the death of Ned. Ned was a brother, father, son and community leader. His death devastated a community. It is our responsibility to implement changes so occupational deaths like Mr. Peart never happen again,” says Tzazna Miranda Leal, organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW).

Miranda Leal continues, “Whether it was the accident that claimed the lives of two migrant workers near Ayton, Ontario or the accident near Hampstead Ontario, migrant workers continue to be employed under dangerous conditions. As temporary foreign worker programs expand, it is imperative that steps are taken to protect precarious communities such as migrant workers.”

Who: Family of Ned Livingston Peart, Migrant Workers, Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) and community allies.

What: Hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal regarding the death of migrant worker Ned Livingston Peart.

Where: Ontario Human Rights Tribunal 655 Bay at Elm. St. (between Dundas St. and Gerrard St.) 14th Floor.

When: April 17th, 18th, 24th, 25th and 26th; 9:00-5:00pm.

Historic Rights Tribunal to Examine Workplace Deaths of Temporary Foreign Workers

Alberta town would be ‘shut down’ without foreign workers Staff
Published Friday, April 12, 2013 10:31PM EDT

After news of RBC’s outsourcing of jobs caused a nationwide outcry, one small Alberta town said it depends on foreign workers to fill jobs that Canadians refuse.

In Rocky Mountain House, a town in central Alberta, business owner Nikki Searth said she relies on the program because she has trouble finding a student who will accept an $11-an-hour cashier job.

According to Searth, it wasn’t always so.

Alberta town would be ‘shut down’ without foreign workers | CTV News


Le choix de la Banque royale du Canada (RBC) de transférer en sous-traitance certains emplois à des travailleurs étrangers temporaires moins bien payés a soulevé une forte opposition. La RBC encourage ainsi une importante dégradation des conditions de travail, une attitude qu’auraient aussi adoptée d’autres banques canadiennes, selon certains témoignages.

Canada’s Largest Private-Sector Union Blasts Harper for RBC Debacle

"In this Conservative scheme everyone is victimized," says UFCW Canada leader

Toronto, Ont. — April 10, 2013 — UFCW Canada, the country’s largest private-sector union and Canada’s leading national voice for migrant and temporary foreign workers, is joining the groundswell of Canadians in expressing frustration and outrage over the federal government’s latest failure to protect the well-being of Canadian workers, while further victimizing Canada’s most precarious workforce.

“This shameful deceit is just another example of how the Harper government’s temporary foreign worker programs were designed to benefit a handful of wealthy companies and Harper’s super-rich corporate friends," says Wayne Hanley, the national president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada), representing more than a quarter of a million workers from coast to coast.

"For RBC to claim that this was a supplier’s decision displays their lack of corporate governance and is the same kind of toxic, anti-worker environment the Harper government constantly holds up as their formula for a ‘successful’ Canada. In this Conservative scheme everyone is victimized."

For more than two decades, UFCW Canada has been the leading national advocate for the reform of migrant and temporary foreign worker programs. The union is also the author a leading Canadian report on the Status of Migrant Workers in Canada ( ).

"Given what we know now, the RBC case is more than just a case of migrant workers being hired to do the work of Canadians," says Hanley. "The workers couldn’t have been hired without the employer proving they didn’t have Canadians to do the job. That is the case in some sectors, but clearly not here. Either the government turned a blind eye, or the job search data supplied by the employer to show it couldn’t find qualified Canadians was bogus. Which is it?"

Recently, Diane Finley, the federal Minister of Human Resources, met with advocacy and labour groups to review foreign worker programs administered by her department, "where we made it clear that the system has been broken for decades," says Naveen Mehta, UFCW Canada’s general counsel, and director of human rights. "The RBC case is just the latest example of a shameless system without controls, where corporations only do what is right for them."

In 2012, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada exceeded the number of landed immigrants. "In some sectors, there may be shortages of Canadian workers able to fill positions but typically, unless they are working in a union environment, the workers brought in to do the work are grossly exploited and often treated like indentured servants," says Mehta.

"Any talk by Harper and his government to fix this has been just talk. The reality is they have engineered a program that leads to a low wage economy, where the rights of both domestic and foreign workers are trashed to bolster the corporate bottom line."

RBC chief apologizes for foreign workers controversy

The head of the Royal Bank of Canada has apologized to workers affected by a move to replace them with temporary foreign workers, and is promising all will be offered “comparable job opportunities” within the bank, just days after a CBC report on Canadians losing jobs to workers outside the country.

RBC chief apologizes for foreign workers controversy – Canada – CBC News