St. Catharines, Ont. – August 21, 2019 – UFCW Canada is calling for additional protections for migrant agrifood workers following a fire at Pioneer Flower Farms in St. Catharines, Ontario that has destroyed employees’ housing accommodations and resulted in further precarity for one of Canada’s most vulnerable worker populations.
While the fire at the flower farm was contained, and no injuries or deaths have been reported, the blaze destroyed multiple residential buildings that housed migrant workers labouring at the farm. The fire was in a structure that houses a series of greenhouses and outbuildings and the cause is still unknown.
Troublingly, workers at Pioneer are now reporting that they are being told that they will be sent back to their home countries, without the opportunity to continue working in Canada, where the agrifood sector is in desperate need of workers.
While the federal government has made significant and welcomed progress in reforming the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), following decades of UFCW activism, by introducing open work permits for migrant workers experiencing abuse, events like this tragic fire highlight the need for additional protections – including access to the Employment Insurance (EI) system that migrant workers pay into, and the ability to permanently reside in Canada.
UFCW Canada is also calling for greater mobility for migrant workers, which would lessen vulnerability and incidents of exploitation and result in better, safer workplace standards for everyone – migrant and domestic.