Agriculture profits set record while workers get 0% raise

Agriculture profits set record while workers get 0% raiseOttawa – April 2, 2016 – Last year’s total net revenue for the agriculture sector set a new record and the outlook for 2016 is also positive, but what about the income of agriculture workers?

A new report from Agriculture Canada says that 2015 was the most successful year ever for the agriculture industry with net income up by 6% from 2014, reaching a new record of $15 billion. The net operating income for individual operators was up on average by 8%. Looking ahead, 2016 is also expected to be a very profitable year for the sector, with projected earnings forecast at 14% higher than the 2010 - 2014 average.

And what about the income of the more than 35,000 migrant and temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector who are the backbone of the Canadian food system? Their hourly rate is set by the federal government and provincial agriculture industry associations. For 2016, the rate has been frozen at the provincial minimum wage: a 0% increase from the year before.

The story is different for seasonal migrant workers and temporary foreign workers at agriculture operations with a UFCW Canada contract in place which include annual wage increases. But the largest number of migrant seasonal agriculture workers are employed at industrial-scale agriculture operations and greenhouses in Ontario, and in that province legislation denies agriculture workers the right to unionize.

“The numbers make it pretty clear that where there is no union in place, workers at factory farms in the corporate agriculture sector continue to be denied a fair share for the work they do,” says UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema. “The federal government continues to give the industry a green light to do what they want, and until Ontario allows agriculture workers to unionize, the country’s largest agriculture workforce will continue to be exploited by very profitable, industrial-scale operators that call all the shots.”