Migrant workers vote to join union

Posted by admin on Sep 21st, 2006

Man., Que. migrant workers vote to join union; similar vote unlikely in Ont. Canadian Press. Published: Thursday, September 21, 2006

LEAMINGTON, Ont. (CP) – Migrant farm workers at three farms in Quebec and one in Manitoba have voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The union called the vote a “historical breakthrough” which could eventually impact thousands of migrant agricultural workers brought each season to Canada. Application hearings will be held before the Quebec Labour Relations Commission on Sept. 24 and before the Manitoba Labour Relations Board before the end of October. Should the bids be approved, workers at the four farms will be able to bargain for improved wages and working conditions for the first time, which up until now have been set by the Mexican and Canadian governments under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Every year nearly 18,000 workers from Mexico and Caribbean countries are brought to Canada to help plant and harvest crops. They typically are paid minimum wage and the union claims many of the workers are subject to intolerable working and housing conditions. “These men and women supply an essential service … we have food on our
tables because of these workers,” Wayne Hanley, the national director of UFCW Canada said in a statement Thursday. “By choosing to form a union,” said Hanley, “these workers will have a say in how they are treated and compensated.”

Most migrant workers are employed in Ontario, but they are banned from joining a union under provincial legislation, said Leamington, Ont.-based union official Stan Raper. The union filed a legal challenge in 2003 to allow agricultural workers to join unions, but the courts have yet to rule on matter, Raper told radio station CHYR Thursday.

Comments are closed.