UFCW Canada denounces Bill 8, demands Quebec government stop discriminating against the most vulnerable

Toronto – October 24, 2014 – UFCW Canada expresses shock and dismay with Quebec’s Liberal government for ramming through legislation that has the potential to strip many agriculture workers of their basic human rights. The government has passed into law Bill 8, which will effectively deny workers in small agriculture operations the right to unionize and bargain collectively.

Just last month, UFCW Canada presented a hard-hitting brief to the Quebec National Assembly, outlining the detrimental impact Bill 8 would have on workers in the agriculture sector. Since other seasonal workplaces such as ski resorts and golf courses were left untouched by the legislation’s ban on unionization, Bill 8 directly discriminates against agriculture workers. Soon after UFCW Canada’s presentation to the legislative committee, the Quebec Human Rights Commission also issued a warning that Bill 8 could be considered unconstitutional and in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This latest affront to the rights and dignity of agriculture workers comes on the heels of a declaration by Quebec’s Superior Court that the exclusion of agriculture workers from the right to organize would be unconstitutional and inoperable. Last year, the Superior Court issued the decision in favour of UFCW Canada’s five-year battle to defend the right of agriculture workers in Quebec to bargain collectively. With complete disregard for the Court’s decision, the Liberal government has rushed through Bill 8 without further public consultation.

The legislation singles out agriculture workers in workplaces where there are less than three full-time employees, allowing only for undefined “associations” which merely have the right to “inform” employers of workplace issues. By denying the right to unionize on farms and greenhouses with less than three full-time employees, no matter how many seasonal agriculture workers are employed, the government is effectively giving employers a method to manipulate the workforce in order to avoid collective bargaining.

“This is a slap in the face to the least privileged members of our society,” says Paul Meinema, UFCW Canada National President. “Bill 8 completely ignores the fact that without the power of union representation and collective bargaining, working conditions in the agriculture sector will only get worse, not better. As Canada’s union for agriculture workers, we will do everything in our power to fight against this draconian piece of legislation and redouble our efforts to support and empower agriculture workers in Quebec and across Canada.”

UFCW Canada is the nation’s leading and most progressive union, representing more than a quarter-million members including thousands of agriculture workers, and more than 13,000 Agriculture Worker Alliance (AWA) members. For more than a decade, UFCW Canada has waged a monumental struggle, in partnership with the Agriculture Workers Alliance, to secure the rights of migrant and domestic agriculture workers.