These cases show the kinds of problems that farm workers face in Canada on a daily basis.
Work Accident, Repatriation
While loading machinery onto a truck, the worker displaced two vertebrae. The doctor prescribed an operation but the worker was pressured to return to Mexico by both the employer and the consulate.
Breaking Contract, Mistreatment, Sickness
Prince Edward, Ontario
A worker at this farm reported that they did not have potable water and eight workers suffered itching skin, eye irritation, stomach aches, and diarrhea. One worker was seriously ill as a result. The employer provides no facility to wash their clothes or pots for cooking and is aggressive and insulting toward them.
Anti-Union Reprisal, Slander
As of 2006, this worker had six years with the same employer. In the airport he informed our staff that the night before returning to Mexico, the employer requested that four of the workers sign a letter to renounce their wish to be represented by TUAC Canada (UFCW Canada). They refused and subsequently the employer wrote in their letter of recommendation that they had behaviour problems and did not request them back for 2007.
Obscene Gestures, Insults, Mistreatment
In 2006, three workers report that every morning the employer offers them bread, rubs it on his genital area, and requires all eight workers to eat it. If they refuse he becomes furious, shouts, and gives them fewer hours of work. He insults them saying “you are pigs” and “you eat shit”. He drives the truck in which they are transported at high speeds. He subtracts money unduly from their paycheques.
Discriminatory Treatment by Federal Authorities
When workers arrive at the airport, they are put in a separate line at customs. They are sniffed by police dogs. In February of 2007, one worker was strip-searched and detained for questioning, although the customs officers knew no Spanish at all. He was eventually released and no evidence was ever produced of any wrongdoing.
Violating the CSAWP
The CSAWP clearly prohibits employers from employing migrant farm workers in industries other than agriculture. In 2007, one British Columbian farm employer sent his migrant employees to Alberta to do construction work. They were not paid construction wages, they were not properly trained and some of these workers suffered work-related injuries. The employer has claimed in the media that building greenhouses might be considered agricultural work, but we assert that this was clearly construction and the injuries could have been avoided.
Retention of Documents, Violation of Contract
The employer demands piecework although the contract specifies workers will be paid by the hour, as reported by workers in 2007. The employer confiscated their documents, and did not provide beds, only sleeping bags. The Canadian workers at this farm must fill three boxes per day and they receive $50 per box; the Mexican workers are required to fill seven boxes per day at $17 per box.
A group of approximately 15 Mexican workers in 2007 reported that their housing conditions were substandard. The local health and fire departments were contacted and the employer was compelled by the authorities to make changes. The changes included covering an open septic tank and a pipe that were next to their living quarters and the fields where vegetables are grown.
A Mexican worker in Abbotsford was physically assaulted because he was not weeding according to the farm employer’s expectation. This 25-year-old worker was deeply frightened and came to our support centre to seek refuge. The police were notified and the worker sought to press charges. The Abbotsford police have stated in the media that they may not be able to follow through with any charges as the complainant has since returned to Mexico. The worker experienced great difficulty in receiving his wages and his flight ticket home, both obligations that the employer was reluctant to fulfill. The worker is worried that he will be blacklisted from the CSAWP in the future because he complained about his employer. In this case, the Mexican Consulate was made aware of the problem by our Abbotsford Migrant Worker Support Centre staff and worked co-operatively to return the
Delays in Receiving Pay
The CSAWP agreement signed with Jamaica provides that 25% of these workers’ earnings will be withheld from their cheque and provided to them on their return to Jamaica. Workers approached our centre in Leamington for help in recovering these wages due to them for over a year. Through the intervention of our Migrant Worker Support Centre, the employees finally received their money.