Join us for a community delegation on the National Day of Mourning

This Thursday, April 28, 2022, is the National Day of Mourning for workers who have gotten killed, sick or injured at work.

We mourn the dead and fight for the living.

If you are in Toronto, please join us at 1:00pm on 28 April at 400 University Ave (the Ministry of Labour). Alongside IAVGO and the Injured Workers Action for Justice, we’ll deliver an open letter from injured workers and survivors of workplace deaths to Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, demanding justice and calling on him to ensure protection for all workers.

For more information, please email j4mw.on@gmail.com. Check out the Facebook event here.

Here is our open letter with IAVGO and IWA4J.

Please also read this letter from Juan (pseudonym), a migrant farmworker with stage 4 cancer who was exposed to pesticides on the job.

 Open Letter from Injured Workers: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

                                                                                                                 

March 21, 2022

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Langevin Block, 80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A2                                                                 justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

Hon. Sean Fraser
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship                                            Confederation Building, Suite 110
House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6                                                  sean.fraser@parl.gc.ca

Hon. Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario,
Legislative Building Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1A1    doug.fordco@pc.ola.org

Hon. Monte McNaughton,
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development
400 University Ave, Toronto, ON M7A 1T7                       monte.mcnaughtonco@pc.ola.org

Jeffery Lang
WSIB President & CEO
200 Front Street
Toronto, ON M5V 3J1

 Open Letter: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

We are a diverse grassroots group of injured migrant farm workers and allies who have been fighting for fair compensation and respect from the WSIB (Workplace & Safety Insurance Board) for all workers. We want changes to the system to help, not hinder, the lives of injured workers.

On March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we, injured migrant workers formerly employed by Canada’s temporary foreign worker program, want to bring to light the conditions that we have faced as a result of becoming injured or sick.  We believe that the workers’ compensation system is racist and that we are treated very badly. This systemic racism does not treat us like we are human. There are power differences between us as workers and our bosses. The system is set up for the bosses, not for us. Our voices are not taken seriously. It is like the system believes the bosses rather than us when we are telling the impact of our injuries. We are treated like we are lying; neither our injuries nor our pain are seen as serious. Rather than let us heal, the bosses send us back to work while we are still injured and in pain. It’s like we must beg for benefits that we are entitled to.

We face racism because of our complexion and our status as migrants. We are considered disposable to the WSIB, the government of Canada, employers, and our liaisons. We have been verbally, physically, mentally, and emotionally abused. Rather than helping us heal, the current system makes it worse for us. We have been denied the right to function as humans in Canada. For those of us who have been repatriated, we are returning to our home countries with injuries and traumas. We pay upfront for our transportation, our healthcare, and our medicine to come to Canada, but we must beg friends and family members after we get injured in Canada when we should rightfully be getting benefits from WSIB in Canada. Our work injuries suffered in Canada put us in further debt. This is not fair. Many of us suffer high blood pressure, stress and anxiety because we cannot pay our bills. In many cases, we miss our medical appointments, which means we get more sick.

It is WSIB that is in charge, which holds the responsibility when a worker gets injured on the job in Canada. Because of the systemic racism, WSIB is failing injured migrant workers. The injured people are finding it hard to communicate with the WSIB caseworkers on the phone, even when our medical information is placed on their desks or on computers. The injured people are re-traumatized on top of what they have already been through, which leads to even more depression and frustration. There needs to be a system in place to investigate when the WSIB is not doing their job. Our lives are in misery and it’s taking a toll on our children’s education and their well being due to poverty, separation, no access to health care, mental break down, and so many more issues. Our health and safety must not be put in jeopardy. The WSIB system must change so that we receive the same protections that other Canadian nonfarm workers receive. We should not be penalized for standing up for our rights or refusing dangerous working conditions. It is not right that the laws do not protect us for the essential work we do while in Canada.

In the WSIB system, there are no rights for injured migrant workers. They are biased in the way they treat workers and also biased in the compensation injured workers get. Injured migrants cannot get to see a proper doctor nor do they have the money to pay for it. However, WSIB is giving so-called “surplus” money to employers that is should rightfully be going to injured workers and our families. This money should be returned to us so we can take care of our families. When our families are sick, we cannot take care of them, nor can we send our children to school. It is outrageous for WSIB to reward those employers rather than fix the system that has left injured workers in crisis. We are angry, we are in pain, and our lives have been forever changed because of our work injuries. We don’t want nice words, nor do we want pity. We want justice. We want the system to change. We want to receive the medical treatment we deserve and the benefits that make sure we are not given a death sentence. We want a system that helps us, not traumatize us further.

We will not be silent and we will not give up. We will continue fighting with all workers, past or present, who have been mistreated by the WSIB. We will continue to fight for our families, our children, our co-workers, and future generations of workers so that they do not suffer the same pain and suffering that we have faced. Our struggle is for all migrant workers, whatever country you are from or whatever language you speak. Our struggle is for the betterment of Canadian workers and migrant workers alike. We will not accept racial mistreatment because we are black or brown.

We urge both federal and provincial governments’ immediate actions to protect all workers.  The following demands will provide immediate support and a safety net to the workers and families of workers who have been killed, injured and got sick at work:

  • The Canadian government must provide permanent immigration status for all undocumented and migrant workers, status on arrival, status when injured, and no one should be deported. The federal program recently proposed is grossly inadequate to allow more than a tiny fraction of farm workers and other essential workers to qualify. That’s not enough at all. All workers, including those injured workers must be allowed to stay and access justice and health care in Canada.

The Ontario government:

  • Abolish Bill 27, Schedule 6, Working for Workers Act, 2021: Absolutely, this does not work for workers. Immediately return the WSIB Surplus to Injured Workers, not to employers.
  • End the WSIB practice “deeming” (phantom jobs) and provide benefits when injured workers are not able to get a job or no job is available in the market, especially those undocumented and migrant workers who are already deported to their countries, but systemically deemed in 12 weeks without any benefits. The WSIB says they can continue working as a cashier, gas bar attendant, or a call centre worker in Ontario. This is not acceptable.
  • Real Healthcare for Injured Workers: Based on the “Bad Medicine” report (IAVGO,  2017), the WSIB payment of drug benefits decreased 35% ($33M) from $96M in 2010 to  $63M in 2015 while the new claims entering the system are consistent during that period. It says, “About 18,000 injured workers per year have disappeared from the drug benefits program, with no viable explanation from the WSIB.” However, the WSIB’s own Annual Financial Reports confirmed that the benefits paid out to injured workers’ were cut in half from 2010 to 2015. The WSIB should provide health care injured workers  need and fund medical treatments and medication our doctors prescribe, especially for  those workers and migrant workers injured in precarious workplaces and repatriated to  their countries with no medical attention.
  • Change the WSIB law to listen injured workers treating healthcare providers’ recommendations regarding the injured workers’ health care and health & safety about time to heal and return to work instead of wasting money to the WSIB paper doctors to override injured workers’ doctors’ recommendation. Also, eliminate pre-existing conditions or age-related degeneration in the WSIB policy. Researchers and injured workers’ advocates said that these conditions had not affected worker’s ability to do the job or had shown no symptoms (were asymptomatic).

Both Federal and Ontario governments:

  • Work together to fully investigate all work-related deaths and health & safety conditions (abuse/harassments, work injuries, bunkhouse, PPE, safety equipment), including on SAWP (Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program) and TFWP (Temporary Foreign Workers Program), also reinforce all legal requirements that employers must be responsible for unsafe work environments and held accountable for any violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  • Provide social assistance benefits with a real living-cost increase and implement a new Canada disability income benefit for people with disabilities to sustain their life. Any social safety net should be available to everyone who needs it regardless of immigration status. Review access and data requests on EI/CPP/CPPD/WSIB/Social assistance (ODSP/OW) programs accesses for migrant workers, to determine how many workers are facing the systemic issues.

We as injured migrant farm workers and communities are united and organizing together to make sure that there are implemented and followed by our representatives in both governments. We will continue working with our allies and people in the communities to help our representatives do their jobs to protect all workers during this critical time. We urge both governments’ immediate response and actions.

Please contact your MPP and MP (clink the hyperlink to find yours) to protect all workers. We stand in solidarity with all migrants and people of colour in the world against racism.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Injured Migrant Farm Workers

 Contact us for more info:

https://harvestingfreedom.org/
https://www.facebook.com/justice4mw/
https://twitter.com/j4mw
facebook.com/justiceforinjuredworkers
twitter.com/IWA4Justice
instagram.com/iwa4j
Email: iwaction4J@gmail.com

Bad Medicine & No Evidence Reports: https://www.fairnessforinjuredworkers.org/

Real Healthcare for Injured Workers Campaign: https://iavgo.org/get-involved/

#CoverOurCare: https://twitter.com/IWA4Justice

#WorkersCompIsARight: https://injuredworkersonline.org/workers-comp-is-a-right-campaign

March 1 – Final arguments to be heard in historic human rights hearing on race-based DNA canvass by the OPP

Poster with fists on peach background: Final arguments in Ontario migrant workers' historic human rights hearing on racist policing practices
PRESS RELEASE

For immediate distribution
February 28, 2022

Final arguments to be heard in historic human rights hearing on race-based DNA canvass by the OPP

TORONTO – At 9:30am ET on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) will be hearing final arguments in a historic and potentially precedent-setting case involving 54 migrant farm workers.

In October 2013, after a sexual assault that occurred near the community of Bayham, Ontario, the OPP conducted a DNA sweep to collect samples from approximately 95 migrant farm workers employed in the region. The OPP conducted its investigation with what appeared to be a total disregard for the detailed suspect description that it had obtained from the victim. DNA samples were taken from Indo and Afro-Caribbean men from Jamaican and Trinidad. Their ages ranged from 22 to 68, their heights ranged from 5’2” to 6’6”, and their body sizes ranged between 110 lbs to 328 lbs. Other identifying features were also disregarded. Workers were targeted solely on the basis of their skin colour and their status as migrant farmworkers.

54 of the migrant farmworkers who were impacted came together to jointly file human rights applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Starting at 9:30am and ending at approximately 1:30pm on Tuesday, March 1st, final arguments will be heard with respect to the issue of liability and damages.  The Applicants will reiterate that the DNA sweep and the manner in which it was conducted was racial discrimination that violated their rights under section 1 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code. If the OPP is found to have violated the Code, a further hearing will be scheduled to address non-monetary and systemic remedies to prevent a re-occurrence of this type of incident.

This is the first human rights case of its kind in Canada to examine allegations of systemic racial profiling and discrimination by the police towards migrant farmworkers. It is anticipated that it will expose not only the inherent vulnerabilities that workers are exposed to under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, but also how those vulnerabilities were exploited by the police in their execution of the 2013 DNA sweep.

Please show your support for workers by joining the virtual hearing. Label yourself as “observer” so the tribunal knows you are not a participant): http://bit.ly/MigrantDNA

For interviews and more information, please contact:

  • Chris Ramsaroop (Justicia 4 Migrant Workers): Tel: 647-834-4932 / E-mail: j4mw.on@gmail.com
  • Shane Martínez (Lawyer for the 54 Migrant Farmworkers): Tel: 647-717-8111 / E-mail: shane@martinezlaw.ca

Climate justice for migrants and EI: Our letter to the federal government

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Qualtrough, Minister Bibeau, and Minister Fraser,

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW)  writes to reiterate that migrant workers must receive full and equal access to Canada’s Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefit. Since 1966, workers employed under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program have contributed millions of dollars in benefits. However, as a result of their tied work permits, they have been denied access to our social safety net in their time of need.

We support the call for better access, improving benefit rates and a new annual federal contribution to EI. Our demands are as follows:

  1. Permanent status on arrival
  2. No worker should face reprisals, repatriation, or disbarment for accessing benefits or exerting their rights.
  3. Expedite the EI process and ensure migrant and non-status workers are able to get benefits;
  4. Open permits immediately, access to training, and access to employment supports so that workers are not trapped in this situation in the future;
  5. Review access and data requests on EI access for migrant workers, to determine how many workers are facing the same issue;
  6. Treat all migrants in this situation as one workplace and implement a dedicated unit to support workers in these situations. Also, for the future, create a separate sub-department to address EI for migrant farm workers to increase accessibility through an easy streamlined process and to expedite the process;
  7. One of the sub-department’s duties must be consultation with migrant farm worker advocates so that the sub-department knows about and can immediately respond to crisis situations like the ones we have brought to the federal government;
  8. The EI system should be available with “no questions asked” so that individuals are able to access the benefits they have paid into;
  9. Reverse all decisions denying regular EI benefits to migrant farm workers, that were made on the basis that they were unavailable to work because of their work permit status. Award benefits to all workers who have applied immediately;
  10. Ensure that migrant workers are provided all entitlements under our EI system including access to paid training and education programs.
  11. Develop and implement a clear EI access policy that operates on the presumption that migrant agricultural workers are looking for alternate work, and makes their entitlement to EI separate from the nature of their work permits – this would enable more expedited access to EI in the future;
  12. Restore migrant workers’ access to special EI benefits;
  13. Develop a pilot project to examine the establishment of EI interstate agreements with sending countries, so that workers can receive their payments when they return home, or if they are repatriated.

Since 2001, through our involvement with migrant workers, we have raised concerns regarding their contributions to EI without having access to it. In 2002, a member of J4MW advocated with a migrant worker to apply for EI parental benefits, which was successful. This first EI claim enabled thousands of workers to access these benefits to support their families.

In 2013, the federal government took the draconian and egregious step of restricting EI special benefits access to workers who possess valid work permits, thus denying thousands of workers access to benefits upon return to their home country. As you are well aware, Canadians who are overseas do not face the same restrictions as migrant workers to accessing EI special benefits.

With respect to access to regular EI benefits, migrants face multiple barriers. We have seen this with the ongoing pandemic and closure of multiple workplaces, but workers are also impacted by climate change. Pre-pandemic, agricultural migrants have been terminated and repatriated because of crop loss attributed to environmental or direct human factors. The current climate disaster in British Columbia is only the latest salvo in an ongoing devastating environmental disaster that has disproportionately impacted vulnerable communities.

Migrant farm workers have experienced the impact of climate change both in their home country and currently here in Canada. In 2017, for example, migrant farm workers from Dominica were stranded in Canada as a result of the devastation that was inflicted on the island from Hurricane Maria. No policies existed then or now to support this group of workers. Advocacy groups wrote to the federal government to develop immediate steps to address this failure of the government to assist in this prior crisis, but their calls for action to prevent climate racism were met with silence.

This past season’s fires, extreme heat, and now flooding have created significant obstacles for the agricultural industry. While both provincial and federal governments have developed support mechanisms to assist the industry, still no steps have been taken to support the industry’s workers. It is essential that the federal government develop proactive measures not piecemeal efforts to address the long term consequences of pandemics, economic uncertainty, and climate change. Short-term relief will not address systemic policy failures. Climate and economic injustice are intertwined both for migrants here and their home countries. Current EI policies undermine migrants’ access to income support. These issues will only heighten as climate disasters become more frequent and severe.

At the start of the COVID pandemic, J4MW requested immediate and urgent action to extend EI benefits to migrant workers who were stranded in their home country. Unemployed and unable to access their country’s own social safety net, restrictive work permits denied migrants access to benefits despite the strong labour attachment that this community has to our industry. They are praised as essential labour yet denied any benefits connected to this much heralded status. They are also described as “falling through the cracks,” as though the failure of this system can be attributed to unintended error, rather than a program designed to exploit migrant labour. This community is the backbone of our agricultural industry, and in return Canada denies them citizenship or even permanent residence status.

Rather than enable workers to seek other employment or access to EI benefits, migrants are routinely sent home. Workers who are terminated or are in the process of changing their place of employment are continuously denied benefits. As opposed to other groups of workers who can access Ontario Works or other means of financial support, migrant workers are undermined by onerous restrictive immigration practices in a system where access to justice (i.e. appeals) does not exist.

While in Canada, EI officials routinely deny workers access to benefits. For example, during the pandemic, tobacco workers, whose crops were damaged as a result of frost, were not not able to access EI benefits. They were then left destitute because all levels of government failed to take systemic action. In 2020, when over 400 Trinidadian migrant workers were stranded, many were found ineligible for EI, and it was only after persistent advocacy that the federal government created a special one-time open work permit scheme, under which some workers were able to access benefits.

Migrants from other jurisdictions who were stranded were not able to access EI benefits. Their efforts were greatly hindered due to barriers to electronic services, inability to make contact with EI agents, and the onerous reporting system. Many workers described the levels of surveillance and outright hostility they faced. This is attributed to the false belief that as ‘foreign’ workers they are ineligible for EI benefits. Employers have also taken steps to ensure that workers can not receive benefits. Last year, we heard migrant workers from a farm near London were discouraged from applying for EI benefits. When the workers did, they faced threats of termination and reprisal for doing so. Workers at additional farms allege that their contracts were terminated, and they were denied access to EI because they married Canadians.

In several cases, as workers’ status expired and they were not able to leave Canada because of border closures, they were left without income support. Community groups stepped up to the plate to provide clothing and food. Charity, however, will never address the systemic underpinnings of both a discriminatory and racist EI system coupled with an equally egregious Temporary Foreign Worker Program that is driven by the needs of employers and not in the interest of the community or workers.

In addition, while the current government policy centres the development of a gender lens, it is not clear that  gender (and racialized) lens has been undertaken to examine the impact of current EI policies on racialized women migrants from the global south. In our experience, women migrants have faced additional hurdles. Migrant women have been denied access to EI sickness benefits, resulting in these migrants undertaking lengthy appeals at the Social Security Tribunal, all while they have no income. Furthermore, migrant women have articulated the unique and specific barriers they have endured during the pandemic and the impact that the denial of EI benefits has had on their well-being during the pandemic,

Unemployment Insurance and the many reforms that have been enacted are a legacy of resistance by workers. From the On to Ottawa Trek, to the thousands of protests, occupations, marches, and other advocacy initiatives that continue to preserve the system that exists today. These activists developed a vision to implement a system that would protect and shield workers from the worst aspects of job loss and economic loss on the well being of our society. EI was built to prevent shocks on the back of workers. Reforms addressed the previous failures of government unemployment policies that discriminated against women and workers in seasonal industries.

The federal government must immediately address the current crisis and ensure that EI benefits are truly accessible, portable, and universal to all agricultural workers, regardless of their immigration status. Non-status workers and temporary foreign workers cannot be heralded for their sacrifices while Canada sacrifices their well being by denying access to benefits they deserve. This is not simply a call to extend status quo policies. Immediate steps including ending tied work permits and extending EI benefits to all without restrictions are short term policy options. Transformative changes are required to fully appreciate the current context of work in an ongoing global crisis. Maintaining workers under a system where they are tied to an employer is not sustainable. Borders controls and immigration status can no longer be wielded by the state to exclude nor deny essential workers access to Canada’s social safety net.

Sincerely,

Justicia for Migrant Workers

j4mw.on@gmail.com
www.harvestingfreedom.org

Fifty-four migrant farmworkers from Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica commence historic human rights hearing on racist policing practices

Poster with a worker holding a sign "Give Migrant Workers Justice"

TORONTO – On Monday, November 22, 2021, 54 migrant farm workers will be seeking justice from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in a historic and potentially precedent-setting case.

In October 2013, after a sexual assault that occurred near the community of Bayham, Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) conducted a DNA sweep to collect samples from approximately 95 migrant farmworkers employed in the region.

The OPP conducted its investigation with what appeared to be a total disregard for the detailed suspect description that it had obtained from the victim. DNA samples were taken from Indo- and Afro-Caribbean men from Jamaican and Trinidad. Their ages ranged from 22 to 68, their heights ranged from 5’2” to 6’6”, and their body sizes ranged between 110 lbs to 328 lbs. Other identifying features were also disregarded. Workers were targeted solely on the basis of their skin colour and their status as migrant farmworkers.

Fifty-four of the migrant farmworkers who were impacted came together to jointly file human rights applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Starting at 10:00am on Monday the applications will finally be heard. The Applicants will argue that the DNA sweep and the manner in which it was conducted was racial discrimination that violated their rights under section 1 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

This is the first human rights case of its kind in Canada to examine allegations of systemic racial profiling and discrimination by the police towards migrant farmworkers. It is anticipated that it will expose not only the inherent vulnerabilities that workers are exposed to under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, but how those vulnerabilities were exploited by the police in their execution of the 2013 DNA sweep.

Zoom link to observe the proceedings: https://zoom.us/j/99671396600 

For interviews and more information, please contact:

  • Chris Ramsaroop (Justicia 4 Migrant Workers): Tel: 647-eight-34-4932 / E-mail: j4mw.on(at)gmail.com
  • Shane Martínez (Lawyer for the 54 Migrant Farmworkers): Tel: 647-seven-17-8111 / E-mail: shane(at)martinezlaw.ca

ACTION: Preventable deaths continue for migrant workers – we demand immediate changes!

On Saturday, August 28 at 10-11 AM EDT, we’ll be hosting a Digital Day of Action in solidarity with agricultural workers across Canada who continue to toil under horrific living and working conditions. More than 20 workers have died so far during the pandemic and there as been little to no response from all levels of government.

Register for our DDA here. We’ll hear from current and migrant workers and then we’ll call, email and Tweet at the government officials who are failing workers in Canada.

Please also sign our petition that demands immediate changes from all levels of government for their role in creating and maintaining migrant farmworkers’ vulnerability:

J4MW’s response to new pathway to permanent residency announcement – please sign!

Last Wednesday, the federal government announced a new time-limited program for a limited number of international students and migrant workers to apply for permanent residency. The details are here

Our full responses is here.

We strongly condemn Canada’s announced ‘reforms’ to its immigration system. A one-time only, short-term access to permanent residency for 90,000 people is a smokescreen that fails to address Canada’s racist and exclusionary immigration system.

These reforms do nothing to address how the current point system discriminates against both undocumented communities and migrants deemed ‘low skill’ and ‘low wage.’ More troublingly, the reforms do nothing to change the indentureship of thousands of migrant workers in Canada.

In particular, migrant agricultural workers who work under a system of indentured labour will once again see no improvements to their working and living conditions as a result of the continuation of a closed work permit system that binds workers to one employer. Instead, migrant farm workers are put into competition with over 90 other occupations for a measly 30,000 spots, when over 50,000 farm workers have entered Canada on tied work permits during the pandemic alone.

Please sign and share our response here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdUbS4Mw86-tYitr7SZgo–3Fs1ewr8TIazhaLq8lZLqkDuvA/viewform

Take action in solidarity with migrant workers at Cervini greenhouse

Please read the following letter from migrant agricultural workers at Cervini in Leamington, Ontario. They have given us permission to share their letter and would greatly appreciate your support; please scroll down for ways to take action in solidarity through a phone call or tweet.

We are workers at Cervini greenhouse, writing this complaint on behalf of all migrant workers — St. Lucians, Jamaicans, Guatemalans and Mexicans. Every year we take a risk leaving our loved ones to be on the farm program, being ignorant with no knowledge about what we will sign on contract and our rights. Which makes the employer to take big advantages on us.

Last year, management started using LIME STONE in the greenhouse, which affected many workers, some of their eyes burning, throat burning, rashes on skin and even chest pain. All complaints were reported to supervisor and management which they did nothing about.

On October 24th, 2020 we strike cause we couldn’t bear the pain anymore, all guys stop working and ask the LIMESTONE to be removed which they did. As that result many guys didn’t get requested back because they stand up for their right and health.

This year, February 3rd management spread even more LIME STONE in the greenhouse which starting to affect us beside last year complain, it only shows that the employer will use anything harmful thing and don’t care how it affecting us.

We want the company to STOP using limestone as it is affecting our health. We want the company to listen and make changes in our interest. We demand that no workers are penalized for standing up for their rights. WE WANT RESPECT!

Take Action In Solidarity

J4MW is demanding that the company take immediate steps to protect the rights of workers employed at Cervini Farms. Please contact the names listed below and echo workers’ demands:

  1. Stop using the chemical limestone or any other hazardous chemicals in the workplace;
  2. Provide information to the workers regarding all chemicals and pesticides used in the workplace, including the provision of WHMIS. Listen to the demands of the workers and meet with the workers as a group so that changes are undertaken to protect their health from occupational hazards;
  3. Ensure no workers face reprisals for standing up for respect;
  4. RESPECT the people who put food on our table.

PHONE

  1. Chris Cervini 519-322-1959 President and CEO of Cervini and Lakeside Produce
  2. Sudeshna Nambiar, Chief Operating Officer Lakeside Produce 519-999-4403
  3. Monte McNaughton, Ontario Minister of Labour 416-326-7600

TWEET

You can tweet Cervini/Lakeside Produce and Minister McNaughton: @lakesidepro @montemcnaughton Farmworkers are demanding respect from bosses and ending the use of limestone now!  I stand in solidarity with agricultural workers calling for fairness and #racialjustice. #nomorerottentomatoes 

When you have taken action, email us at j4mw.on@gmail.com for additional ways to show solidarity.

Workers speak out for International Migrants Day: open letter

The below letter is compiled from workers at farms where there are ongoing COVID outbreaks, and includes the workers’ own words in a second short letter.

TO:     Cabinet Committee on COVID-19 

The Right Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister
The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister, and Committee Chair
The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board, and Committee Vice-chair
The Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
The Hon. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
The Hon. Melanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages
The Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health
The Hon. Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
The Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Ontario Command Table COVID-19

The Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
The Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health
The Hon. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care
The Hon. Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development
Helen Angus, Deputy Minister of Health, and Chair of the Command Table
Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Public Health Ontario
Dr. Peter Donnelly, President & CEO

RE: OUTBREAKS AT ONTARIO FARMS AND WORKERS’ RESPONSES

Today, on International Migrants’ Day, it angers us to report that there are multiple COVID-19 outbreaks at farms across Ontario. Some of these farms have had multiple outbreaks since the start of this pandemic. Since we last wrote in support of migrant farmworkers, who numbered in the thousands during the first wave, the province and federal governments have taken little to no action. Their only actions to date have been to provide funds to the employers, who we have repeatedly stated are not doing enough to protect their workers.

The following letter provides an overview of workers’ concerns. They have decided to speak about the conditions they are still made to work under, or quarantined within, because neither their employers nor provincial nor federal officials have taken this pandemic seriously enough. We have anonymized their names and their employers to protect workers’ safety.

All the workers we spoke to have stated that there are many cases of COVID at their workplace. Yet, their employers have either refused to disclose this information, or they have taken steps to protect themselves (through quarantine), while forcing their workers to continue reporting for work. One worker stated that their employer has known about outbreaks in their workplace for months, and yet only informed workers about the newest outbreak this month. Another worker only learned of COVID-positive cases in their workplace from other workers who tested positive. Some workers do not know their COVID status because their employers have not allowed them to get tested if they are not showing symptoms, or else have tested them and have not informed them of their own test results. Many workers are working without knowing whether they are COVID positive.

Multiple workers spoke of a lack of appropriate COVID-19 protocols, both in their workplaces and in the shared accommodations provided to them by their employers. Some worked with appropriate social distancing, but others had no such protections and worked in close contact with co-workers who later tested positive for COVID. At their bunkhouses, multiple people share bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. Some report dozens of people using common spaces without appropriate sanitation.

Workplace protections must go beyond providing PPE, as employers are still not taking appropriate measures to sanitize workplaces, and are placing the onus on workers to take responsibility for COVID outbreaks, rather than addressing systemic workplace issues. This has created a stressful and toxic working environment, where workers are concerned for their health, and for their jobs if they are believed to violate workplace policies.

One worker reported that they were given a warning when they refused to rewear dirty masks. Other farm employers provided almost nothing at the beginning of the pandemic, forcing workers to rely on their own funds for appropriate PPE. The disinfection processes used at some greenhouses are not safe to work within, and yet a worker stated that they were made to return to freshly sprayed greenhouses and breathe unsafe air.

In the midst of COVID concerns, workers continue to deal with long-standing health and safety issues. They work long hours with few breaks, including bathroom breaks, and receive warnings if they take time off for their own health and in light of the exhausting, thankless work they do. They are told to work with chemicals they are not properly protected to use, and for long periods that are hazardous to their health – they report having skin irritation and respiratory problems, among other issues. When they inform their employers about these issues, their concerns are dismissed, or worse – they face reprisal.

The workers who spoke to us understand that their employers care more about profits than they do about the health and safety of their workers. While their employers get tested, stay quarantined, and deny COVID outbreaks to Ministry of Labour investigators, workers are told to report to work – in the conditions we illustrated above.

The workers want Canadians to know how they are being treated. Migrant farmworkers come to Canada on closed (tied) work permits, and work to support their families back home. They cannot change their employer except by applying for the open work permit for vulnerable workers, which creates additional institutional and bureaucratic barriers. Employers can take advantage of workers’ precarity and know that workers have little power to change their circumstances.

Workers have stated that this is slavery. They know that if they speak up about their treatment, they can easily be terminated and can be blacklisted from Canada’s agricultural worker programs, so they can never return to Canada for work. Some have reported that workers who have engaged in work stoppages to protest their treatment do not know whether they will be called back for the next season, now that they have been sent home.

Collectively, the workers demand the following:

  • That the government shuts down farms where there are COVID outbreaks;
  • That workers are quarantined and paid during this time, whether or not they test positive for COVID;
  • The provision of paid sick days;
  • That social distancing and disinfection protocols are implemented at workplaces and in bunkhouses to reduce the risk of transmission;
  • That employers are honest and open about COVID-19 outbreaks and workers’ COVID statuses;
  • That consular officials advocate for worker safety and protection;
  • That there are proactive inspections and changes to workplace laws that protect workers;
  • That migrant workers in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are provided with open work permits and permanent status on arrival.

Migrant farmworkers want fair treatment and respect, which they deserve as human beings. This letter is to alert you, once again, to their concerns, which are anonymized to protect their safety. We urge you to take immediate action in protecting them, and to hold their employers accountable so that the responsibility for curbing the spread of the pandemic does not fall on workers, who have been made vulnerable by the system that brought them to Canada.

Sincerely,

Justicia/Justice for Migrant Workers

RE: OPEN LETTER FROM MIGRANT WORKERS IMPACTED BY COVID OUTBREAKS

We are workers from farms where there are current covid outbreaks. We want to express what we felt during this time of pandemic.

What we only want is fair treatment from our employer, manager and all the persons in charge.

As of now, we are waiting for word from them to inform us about what is happening to our farm. We learned that some of our co-workers are positive for the Coronavirus. That information came from those people who tested positive. While the office is still denying that fact. What they want from us workers is to continue working as long as we don’t have symptoms. They are only thinking of the company’s income and forget about the workers safety and welfare.

Same as PR and Canadian citizens, we are humans too that are prone to the virus. We are expecting them to come and disinfect the place where the positive  workers stay while they are working here, but no action at all.

They told us to work if no symptoms and if we want to make sure, we can do swab testing but no pay at all if it turns out negative.

We are addressing these concerns to the people who are willing to help and hope the government would consider us Migrant Workers too, that what we want is respect from you people. Just for humanitarian consideration, we came here to work for our family back home and to earn a living.

Not considering the abuse they are doing during work. Hope the government comes and asks us  workers about our situation. We want to cry out for help but there is this fear that if we talk, our employer will kick us out from the company, considering that we have closed permits. Without status is a big problem for us MIGRANT WORKERS.

We are the people who are greatly affected from this pandemic. And hoping this will reach the government.

Thank you.

ACTION: Send a letter to Ministers – Trinidadian workers need government support benefits now!

As reported by the Toronto Star today, right now, hundreds of migrant farm workers from Trinidad and Tobago are stranded in Canada.

Their contracts have now come to an end as their services are no longer needed in winter. These workers are unable to go back home to their families because of travel restrictions by their sending country. They are stuck here in the Canadian cold with no form of income support and no assistance of any kind from the Trudeau government. These workers are being forced to spend precious holiday time far away from their families, with no income, no shelter, no winter clothing.

Please join us in calling on Ministers to take action NOW.

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