UFCW Canada reaches historic agreement with Mexico to eliminate gender discrimination under the SAWP

UFCW Canada denounces gender-based discrimination against migrant women under Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program


Mexico aims to halt discrimination against women heading to Canada for farm work

CBC News – April 25, 2016

Mexico will have to develop mechanisms to eliminate discrimination against migrant agricultural women in the context of annual negotiations with Canadian employers and authorities.

Mexico City, Mexico – April 26, 2016 – Despite being considered a model of legal and orderly migration, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) has allowed employers to impose discriminatory employment criteria against women for the last forty years. As a result, women accounted for only 3.29 percent of all Mexican SAWP workers in 2015.

UFCW Canada denounced this situation in 2014 before the Mexican National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (CONAPRED). This past March, the Mexican Ministry of Labour (STPS) signed a historic agreement with UFCW Canada before CONAPRED, which includes a commitment to eliminate SAWP recruitment practices that are based on discriminatory criteria. 

The Ministry will inform Canadian employers that they will no longer be allowed to ask for the specific gender of their potential employee under the SAWP, and will provide them with a 5-year period to adapt to the new policy. These requirements will be communicated to Canadian authorities, and measures will be taken to eliminate any discriminatory recruitment criteria under the SAWP in the future.

UFCW Canada has filed complaints regarding gender discrimination under the SAWP before provincial human rights commissions in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, arguing that these practices are illegal under provincial, national, and international laws.

The lack of transparency in the SAWP recruitment process has allowed employers to violate Canadian laws with impunity.  Until now, Canadian authorities have not intervened to stop these violations from occurring. While recent measures taken by Mexican authorities are a step in the right direction, it is now time for Canada to send a strong message to SAWP employers that gender discrimination will not be tolerated.

“UFCW Canada is celebrating this historic victory for equality, and we would like to remind federal and provincial authorities – as well as SAWP stakeholders – that temporary foreign worker programs are not mechanisms for violating workers’ rights,” says Paul Meinema, the National President of UFCW Canada.

“The agreement between UFCW Canada and the Mexican Ministry of Labour reflects our union’s belief in equal and fair treatment under the law, and should serve as a blueprint for recruitment practices in other foreign worker programs going forward,” Meinema adds.