As the province announces a wage boost for some essential workers, migrant activist group Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is demanding answers why are farm workers one of the most vulnerable groups excluded from these income supports. With recent news reports of the spread of the virus to some agricultural operations, J4MW is asking what steps will the province undertake to protect the interests of farm workers, and to protect the food supply chain.
J4MW is urging that the Province and the Ministry of Labour undertake these immediate steps to level the playing field that all farm workers can be protected from the spread of the pandemic. These steps should include:
- Extend the wage boost to include all farm workers in Ontario.
- Provide an expedited appeals process for migrant workers when filing complaints with respect to occupational health and safety and employment standards complaints.
- Migrant farm workers should be provided the ability to work so that they are not tied to a single employer.
- Extend occupational health and safety legislation to include agricultural dwellings.
- Strengthen anti reprisal protections to ensure workers are not fired for raising health and safety concerns or if they become sick or injured at work.
- Develop regulations to protect workers from heat stress, chemical or pesticide. exposure, confined spaces, working at heights and other occupational hazards.
- Increase proactive and snap inspection on all farming operations across Ontario
- Provide hazard pay, sick pay and other benefits to recognize the dangers associated with agricultural work.
- Recognize piece rate as an occupational health and safety hazard.
- Develop and implement occupational health and safety legislation that recognizes, race, racism, systemic discrimination and provides an equity analysis in determining which categories of workers are at greater risk of occupational hazards.
- Communicate what protocols the WSIB has in place to isolate infected workers (and protect uninfected workers) if there is an outbreak in the bunkhouse or workplace.
- End employer wage deductions for all personal protective equipment and develop regulations that ensure employers provide bathrooms, washing facilities and potable water for farm workers across Ontario.
- Strengthen migrant worker protection against recruitment fees by holding employers and recruiters jointly liable.
- End the exclusions to holiday pay, overtime pay, minimum hours of work provisions and the myriad of regulations that deny fairness to farmworkers.
“These are long standing request that farm workers have been bringing up for decades” says Moilene Samuels an activist with Justice for Migrant Workers if we want to stamp out the spread of this pandemic then we need structural changes to address the systemic power imbalances that exist in our field.” continues Samuels
University of Windsor law professor Dr. Vasanti Venkatesh notes that “migrant farmworkers have been the lynchpin of the harvesting season and their contributions have become more crucial than ever as they provide Canada with food security during the pandemic. Yet, it is during harvesting season that the workers are given least protection, as they work numerous overtime hours without pay under hazardous living and working conditions”.
Venkatesh continues that “the structural inequities in agriculture work are exacerbated under the twin forces of the pandemic and harvesting pressures. It has therefore never been more imperative to provide the workers with all the rights and protections. Farm employers are receiving several benefits in the form of subsidies and other grants and other regulatory exemptions. It is time that the workers receive the benefits that are due to them and are valued for their essential labour.”
For further information please contact Chris Ramsaroop 647-834-4932
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