At just one Ontario farm, at least 164 workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Take action now!

At least 164 racialized migrant workers from Mexico have tested positive for COVID-19 at Scotlynn Group’s farm in Norfolk County, Ontario. Meanwhile, the employer is offering to pay Canadian residents $25/hour to harvest asparagus. We have never heard of a migrant farmworker anywhere earning $25 an hour for their hard-earned labour.

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Please take the following actions today in support of migrant justice. It won’t take long to tweet, email and/or phone right now:

1. TWEET at @scotlynnGroup. Ask, the employer:

  • “Will migrant farm workers also be paid $25 an hour?”
  • “Will you commit to not repatriating workers who are sick or injured?”
  • “Will you commit to paying migrant workers full wages and no deductions during their quarantine period, at the same rate you are paying Canadian residents?”
  • “Will you commit to rehiring all migrant labourers next year and paying the $25 they are offering this year to Canadian workers?

You can use the following hashtags: #migrantjustice #fairwagesnow #covid19 #covid19Ontario #onpoli #onlab #onlab

Feel free to CC @fordnation @montemcnaughton @marcomendicino @cquantrough and @mclaudebideau.

2. EMAIL the employer at info@scotlynn.com. Please CC j4mw.on@gmail.com so we can keep track of how many emails are sent. Sample email:

I am aware that you are offering to pay $25/hour to assist with harvesting asparagus, and I am writing to inquire whether or not the migrant workers employed at your workplace will also be paid $25 an hour. Will you commit to this as well as paying the workers full wages during their quarantine? Furthermore, will you ensure that no migrant worker who is sick or injured will be repatriated, and that they will be provided full access to the Canadian healthcare system? Finally, will you commit to rehiring all workers next year if they so choose to return to Scotlynn, paying the $25 rate that you are offering to Canadian residents? I await a response from you.

3. PHONE Scotlynn Group at 1-800-263-9117 ext 2225. Phone script:

I am phoning today to ask about your job posting. Are you paying migrant farm workers $25 as well? Will you pay the workers full wages during their quarantine, and will you commit to not sending home injured and sick workers so they receive full access to our healthcare system? Finally, will you rehire all the workers next year if they choose to return? For years your farm business has relied on migrant workers, and its our hope that they will be treated with fairness and respect during this pandemic.

Want to know what housing conditions are like like for migrant farmworkers right now? Watch this video and then sign our petition.

Farmworkers and activists have long called on the government to address inconsistent and often appalling, overcrowded migrant farmworker housing. Agricultural business groups, however, have lobbied against a national housing standard for migrant farmworkers. More than ever, the pandemic reveals the potentially deadly results of how Canada treats racialized people from the Majority World who are categorized as essential yet “temporary” workers.

To offset the cost of housing workers in a way that complies with pandemic requirements, the federal government has provided $50 million to farms and agri-food businesses that employ people through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. So worker housing in the COVID-19 crisis must be decent, right? This video shows where migrant farmworkers in Ontario are currently being housed:

We demand that governments ensure dignity for essential migrant farmworkers. Please sign our petition: https://harvestingfreedom.org/2020/05/07/petition-tell-the-ontario-government-farmworkers-need-urgent-protections/

Urgent and immediate steps are needed to protect farm workers: J4MW

To the Premier and members of the Ontario Command Table for COVID-19 

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is writing to request urgent and immediate action is taken to protect the thousands of agricultural workers employed in the province of Ontario. With recent reports that there have been confirmed cases at two large farming operations Highline Mushrooms and Greenhill Produce, it is imperative that the province responds. J4MW is asking what steps will the province undertake to protect the interests of farm workers, and to protect the food supply chain. We urge the province to immediately suspend any agricultural workplace from operating until the workplace is fully sanitized and the workers are provided with full Personal Protective Equipment while at work. Furthermore workers should be paid full wages during the sanitization process. Finally it is imperative that MOL inspectors extend their inspections to include bunkhouses and all agricultural dwellings provided to farm workers. Finally it is also critical that the province develop a COVID 19 action plan to protect workers specifically in agriculture. 

J4MW is urging that the Province and the Ministry of Labour undertake these immediate steps to level the playing field so that all farm workers can be protected from the spread of the pandemic. These steps should include: 

  • Extend the wage boost to include 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. 

The issues raised in this letter are long standing requests that farm workers have been bringing forward for decades. To stamp out the spread of this pandemic then it is critical that structural changes are made to address the systemic power imbalances that exist in our fields. 

These 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. 

Justicia for Migrant Workers

 

Message from an anonymous migrant worker at Greenhill Produce

Justicia for Migrant Workers received this important message that we believe needs to be shared widely in light of recent reports about the outbreak COVID-19 at Greenhill Produce in Chatham-Kent, Ontario:

We the farm workers of Greenhill produce feel a bit outcast like we are the least  we feel a bit disrespect..guys test result positive and guys test result negative from Sunday April 22 and up to this date April 24 we the positive and the negative are living in the same house using the same utensils, same bathroom,doing everything like nothing is wrong only told they are following the health procedures..we ask for sanitizers to help kill the spreading of the virus in such a crowded place until now none. Thanks to God some guys always buy bleach that’s what we have to be using…we gave them food list we get what is the Canadian norm of shopping.

We want a voice we are so afraid to talk, we are afraid we get sent back home. This is our JOB this is how we survive this is how we take care of our family back home. Without this God help so we are grateful for the job we are happy for it but we need to be treated as equal as everyone. Liaison officers who should be our advocate we haven’t seen nor hear from them. We have to speak out for us we want to feel comfortable working that if we get injured we are treated equal. This could have been avoided this is a part of negligence. When workers took sick, they took too long before medical attention and still going to work then it spread…please please hear our cry.

No wage boost, no protections at work: J4MW demands action from Ontario to protect farm workers.

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

Twitter @j4mw

E-maill j4mw.on@gmail.com or harvestingfreedomcampaign@gmail.com

Honour Farm Workers today: Take part in the Pigeon Pages: Community Colouring Project

Today we’re excited to share, Pigeon Pages: A Community Colouring Project. This colouring book honours the hard work of essential farm workers during this pandemic.

Click here for a pdf version of the colouring book.

While it’s free for everyone, all proceeds from optional donations go to Justice for Migrant Workers. Send an e-transfer to: thankyoupigeons@gmail.com

J4MW thanks the amazing artist Emmie Tsumura for this dynamic project!

Instructions

What you will need: Printer, paper, pens, markers, crayons, glue or tape, and scissors
  1. Print the pdf from here
  2. Read the last page (page 11) for instructions
  3. You will need either pencils, markers, crayons, or paint to colour the pigeons
  4. On pages 9 and 10 you will see bubbles to write in. Sample messages include “If you ate today thank a migrant worker, farm workers feed cities, Justice for migrant workers, support migrant workers, Fairness for farm workers, hazard pay for farm workers, Status now! etc
  5. After you write your messages cut the message bubbles and glue or tape it next to a pigeon.
  6. If you would like take a picture with your pigeons and share it on social media. (Please tag @j4mw). Feel free to use the hashtags: #harvestingfreedom #farmworkers #migrantworkers #workingclassheroes
  7. You can e-mail pictures to harvestingfreedomcampaign@gmail.com
Pigeons4ThePeople

 

Open letter to Workplace Safety Insurance Board regarding COVID19, workers compensation and migrant farm workers (Ontario)

Tom Teahen, CEO
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
200 Front St. W
Toronto ON M5J 3J1
Dear Mr. Teahen,

I am writing to you on behalf of Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. J4MW is writing to request urgent action by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board regarding migrant agricultural workers’ access to WSIB benefits during this crisis. We urge the WSIB to immediately:

Write to employers of migrant workers educating them on their duty to report COVID-19 infections and remind them of their Human Rights obligations for workers who report an accident or cluster to WSIB;

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; and

Enable injured and ill migrant workers to remain in Ontario for health care

Educate employers about their reporting and Code obligations

J4MW is urging you, in your capacity as CEO of the WSIB, to write a letter to every employer of migrant farm workers to remind them of their obligation to report every migrant farm worker that is diagnosed with both presumptive and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Access to WSIB is especially important because of the differential treatment that exists for injured and sick migrant workers as a result of being tied to a restrictive work permit. Various levels of government deny migrant workers access to benefits and entitlements that are available to resident workers of this province. WSIB is all that many of these workers will have practical access to.

As you know, employers must report work-related injuries to WSIB per the Act and OPM 15-01-02 Employers’ Initial Accident-Reporting. Migrant farm workers have expansive WSIB coverage including while in flight, in their bunkhouses and while out doing grocery shopping per OPM 12-04-08 Foreign Agricultural Workers. This means that if workers contract COVID-19, it is virtually guaranteed to be work-related.

With migrant workers living in shared accommodations with very little ability to exert their rights given their tied work permit, these workers are highly susceptible during this pandemic. It is critical that the WSIB is proactive by ensuring that employers know of their reporting obligations

Further, it is imperative that the WSIB stress the anti-reprisal measures and enforcement mechanisms that exist under the Ontario Human Rights Code if workers face any form of reprisal for exercising their rights under the workers’ compensation system.

As thousands of migrants employed under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program are to arrive in Ontario, time is of the essence that workers are not deterred nor discouraged by employers, recruiters, or government officials for filing WSIB, as this should be the main form of income and health care supports for migrant workers who become sick.

Communicate protocols for workplace clusters involving migrant workers

As workers both live and work in employer provided housing, it is vital that the WSIB communicate what protocols it has in place to isolate infected workers (and protect uninfected workers) if there is an outbreak in the bunkhouse or workplace. We are already seeing clusters forming in various bunkhouses across the country.

The federal government has mandated that workers go into quarantine for the first two weeks after they arrive. However, they have not identified what will happen in the event of a workplace cluster. This is Ontario’s job, and indeed, the WSIB’s job.

It is vital that you let us know how you will handle a cluster so that we can communicate it to our communities. During these times, information is key. We cannot stress how important it is that you communicate what protocols the WSIB will follow when a workplace cluster happens where migrant workers live and work.

Enable injured and ill migrant workers to remain in Ontario for health care

During this crisis there are opportunities to undertake proactive measures to ensure that no sick or injured worker is unfairly repatriated to their home country. It is of the utmost importance that injured and sick migrant workers are provided with the choice and means to remain in Ontario to ensure that they can receive full medical support to heal. We are extremely concerned that employers will repatriate migrant workers who become ill during this pandemic. The WSIB therefore needs to make sure that protections are in place to deter this from happening.

In closing, there have been many accolades directed to the numerous categories of essential workers who sacrifice their lives during this pandemic. Many are precarious workers often forgotten, ignored and silent whose contributions are not highlighted. Often employed under dirty, dangerous and deadly working conditions, we need to move beyond platitudes to ensure that no injured or sick worker is forgotten during this crisis, and that the necessary resources and support are accorded to them to protect their health and well-being at this particular moment.

Sincerely,
Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW)