But Mexican Consulate’s collusion with farm employers in ‘blacklisting’ migrant workers still to be subject of upcoming hearings
VANCOUVER, B.C. – February 1, 2012— The British Columbia Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) has ruled the Mexican government has “state immunity” and would not be party to charges that its Consulate in Vancouver worked in collusion with agriculture employers to blacklist Mexican citizens suspected of being union supporters from returning to work in Canada as migrant farmworkers.
The charges were filed by UFCW Canada Local 1518 — the union which represents seasonal migrant farm workers at Floralia Plant Growers, and Sidhu & Sons Nursery in the Fraser Valley. Along with Mexico and its consulate, Sidhu and Floralia are also named in the unfair labour complaints, which are backed up by leaked Mexico government documents that point to the blacklisting activity.
In its ruling, the BCLRBheld that Mexico has state immunity and is therefore immune from unfair labour practice complaints being brought against it. However, hearings into the charges against Sidhu & Sons and against Floralia will proceed, and the Board’s ruling recognized that the actions of Mexico are relevant and important to provide background and context for the charges against the two farm employers.
“Our view all along has been thatMexico is not immune from the consequences of its unlawful acts that impact the rights of its citizens who are working in Canada,” says Wayne Hanley, national president of UFCW Canada. “Today’s ruling essentially says Mexican officials in Canada are free to breach the established and agreed to rights of workers in Canada to unionize and work collectively to improve their lives and employment while in Canada.”
“We are very concerned about the consequences for migrant farmworkers as a result, and will review this ruling closely before determining our next steps,” says Hanley.
“It’s disturbing that this ruling allows the Mexican government to hide behind claims of immunity and avoid very serious charges that go to the heart of fundamental labour and human rights protected by law in Canada,” says Ivan Limpright, president of UFCW Canada Local 1518, which represents the migrant farm workers at Sidhu, and at Floralia.
“Despite our disappointment and concern about today’s ruling,” says Limpright, “we are pleased to see that the Board is prepared to examine the allegations of the Mexican government’s collusion with the two farms to blacklist migrant farmworkers, and the facts of this case will be part of the upcoming charges brought before the Board.”
“Migrant farmworkers are among the most vulnerable and exploited workers in Canada, and we will continue to fight to see their basic human rights recognized and honoured.”
UFCW Canada is the country's largest private-sector union and represents agriculture workers at a number of locations in B.C. and Quebec. The union, in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA), also operates three agriculture workers support centres in B.C. and seven others across the country.