Quebec government to change Labor Code to allow farmworkers to unionize

As a last official announcement before declaring an election, the Quebec government, through the Ministry of Labor, published a short release on it’s Website yesterday mentioning that the Quebec Labor Code would be modified as of March 11th to grant all agricultural workers the right to unionize.

This news ends years of legal battles between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Fruits and vegetables growers of the province who had been trying to stop any changes to the Labor Code. Presently the Code makes it impossible for farms that have less than 3 permanent year-round workers to form a union. Given that most fruit and vegetable farms rely on temporary foreign workers, forming worker’s unions had been largely impossible.

The winning argument on behalf of UFCW was that the farming world has changed since the Labor law exclusion for farm workers was put in place decades ago. Last March, the Quebec Superior Court had decided to reject an appeal from the Farm employers association and in a landmark decision, gave a year to the government to change an article in the Labor Code.

The announcement now makes it official that after March 11th unions will be able to file union claims at the Labor Relation Commission of Quebec. It also opens a new era for Quebec unions who will surely compete to rapidly unionize hundreds of farms around the province, when the first foreign workers start arriving in April and May.

Roberto Nieto

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