Migrant farmworkers from Jamaica working on a vineyard at Tregunno Family Farms in the Niagara region of Southern Ontario. Photo Credit: Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

Foreign Farmworkers in Canada Fear Deportation if They Complain

Article in The New York Times
14 August, 2017

To place all workers in a position to defend their rights, States must provide a legal and administrative status that enables and empowers workers – for example through easy access to unionisation and to justice – rather than one that places them in a precarious condition, where the employer can fire migrant workers and blacklist them at will, and where latter fear being returned to their country of origin if they open their mouth to complain. Creating conditions of precariousness has been the mechanism through which Canadian employers (and many other employers around the world) have been able to extract maximum labour for minimum costs. This need to change. The profitability and competitiveness of economic sectors such as agriculture, construction, care, extraction, fisheries or hospitality cannot be sustainably built on precariousness-based exploitation. We need to be able to start the necessary social conversations which will determine how we reduce the precariousness of status of temporary migrant workers, eliminate labour exploitation and compensate for the increased labour costs.

“Canada’s seasonal agriculture worker program was set up to recruit migrants from Mexico and 11 Caribbean nations to work for up to eight months a year to address chronic labor shortages.

But critics say the program is poorly supervised, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation by employers, often denied the Canadian labor benefits they are entitled to and at risk of deportation if they complain about employment conditions.

“This program is a form of apartheid,” said Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, a labor rights organization based in Ontario.”

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