Abused Barbadian farm workers cheated by Canadian Government program

Bajans unpaid and stranded in Canada

“The employers are protected but people doing the work are left defenseless by the Canadian government’s indifference to the abuse faced by migrant farm workers.”

The Canadian Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program was put in place by Canada for one reason: farm and agriculture jobs pay so little in Canada that there are not enough Canadians willing to take the employment. Canadian agriculture therefore relies on hardworking folks from Barbados, the Caribbean and Mexico who leave their homes, family and friends to work temporarily on Canadian farms.

It seems to me that the Canadian Government should be responsible to protect the workers, and to ensure that the farms and agricultural businesses that participate in the government program are viable.

Migrant farm work is a hard and lonely life, but workers travel to Canada because they must to provide for themselves and their families.

And then they get cheated…

TORONTO–(Marketwire – Nov. 24, 2010) –

More than 130 migrant agriculture workers from Mexico and the Caribbean have gone home cheated of thousands of dollars after the Ontario farm operation they worked at filed an intention to obtain creditor protection. Workers had not been paid since early November after the owner departed for California. He has yet to return.

The workers from Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad were employed at the Ghesquiere Plant Farm near Simcoe, Ontario. They were contracted to Ghesquiere under the federal government’s Canadian Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program (CSAWP).

“This is a very bad situation,” said Francis Gibson, a longtime CSAWP worker from Barbados who only worked for the first time at Ghesquiere this season. “What I don’t understand is how a farm that was known to have money problems can be part of the program? We came here and worked hard to work put money in the farmer’s pocket. But now we’re going home and our pockets are empty.”

More than 22,000 migrant agriculture workers come to Canada each season under the CSAWP but once workers arrive the CSAWP provides little protection or follow-up regarding housing or workplace issues. It is unlikely that any of the workers will see the money they are owed.

The case was the same for more than 200 migrant workers at Rol-Land Farms in Cambridge, Ontario – an industrial-scale mushroom growing facility, where in 2008 the migrant workers were fired without notice a week before Christmas and repatriated the next day after the employer filed for creditor protection.

“The employers are protected but people doing the work are left defenseless by the federal government’s indifference to the abuse faced by migrant farm workers,” says Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada (www.ufcw.ca).

“Ontario’s ban on farm unions makes it even worse by denying farm workers the health, safety and workplace protections they would have under a collective agreement. Both the federal and Ontario governments are complicit in a system that violates workers’ rights to fatten the profits of corporate agriculture.”

The United Nations agrees with that assessment. On November 18 its agency for labour standards, the International Labour Organization, ruled on a UFCW Canada complaint and found both Canada and Ontario guilty of violating the Freedom of Association rights of Ontario agriculture workers (www.ufcw.ca/ilo).

UFCW Canada is the country’s largest private-sector union, with more than 250,000 members working primarily in the food production and food retail sectors. UFCW Canada, in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) operates ten agriculture worker support centers from British Columbia to Quebec.

Further Reading

Canadian CBC: Ont. farm accused of not paying migrant workers

5 Comments

Filed under Agriculture, Barbados, Canada, Human Rights, Immigration

5 responses to “Abused Barbadian farm workers cheated by Canadian Government program

  1. jdid

    Totally outrageous but not unexpected. There is a lot of migrant labor being exploited in Ontario not only in the farming community. There was a recent Toronto Star story about Indian chefs who were brought in to work at restaurants and then cheated out of pay or paid in cash, denying them a work record so that the company wouldnt have to pay government taxes

  2. lancewoodworker

    This treatment is despicable and unacceptable but yet Barbadians and other nationals keep going back year after year for the same abusive treatment, as oppose to using the program as a stepping stone to something better… they can take out a course and study at nights after work, and eventually they’ll have the skills that will enable them to elevate themselves to another level, because there are tremendous opportunities in Canada.

    On the other hand, Barbadians are also cheated out of their home-savings which never fully adds up, after they return home from the program. Year after year they’re given the run around after they return home when it comes time for repaying their remittances, as though they’re begging for handouts or something, when it’s their hard-earned money and the only thing they have to go by while they’re at home until the beginning of another season in Canada.

    The Barbados Government needs to do something about this old, decrepit, archaic and broken down system that’s seemingly questionable anyway, or install new employees at the labour office who’re more serious about they work, people who will still function effectively even when the computer system both in the Liaison offices in Canada and the labour office in Barbados temporarily breaks down.

    It’s sad to say but true, that the plight of these Canadian farm workers will remain the same in Canada until these workers come together and cut out all the bickering and fighting against each other. Many of these migrant workers act as though they have something to prove to the Canadian workers they’re also employed with, and as a result backbite and slander each other’s names, even with their bosses.

    So until they can coalesce with each other in total solidarity the status quo will remain the same, because their bosses already know that anyone who backbites his fellow colleague isn’t really a smart person and thus won’t be treated with much respect.

  3. This is common among undocumented migrant workers all over the world. That it happened in Canada,one of the most humane socities in the world, is sad. Labor departments of countries – not just Barbados, sending workers overseas should look into these and regulate the movement of theirs workers.

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