April 28 marks the Day of Mourning, and workers across the world are taking the time to honour our comrades killed at work.
Migrant workers and their allies join today to demand an end to dangerous, demeaning and dehumanizing work, and an end to unsafe practices that result in injury and death. Justicia for Migrant Workers wants to highlight the particular vulnerabilities faced by migrants employed under temporary foreign worker programs in Canada.
Being tied to an employer and under constant threat of repatriation means that migrant workers are at particular risk of being employed under unsafe conditions. If migrant workers are injured on the job in Canada, they are often treated as disposable, denied access to the health care and workplace compensation to which they’re entitled, and sent home. Despite our consistent calls for changes to our labour laws, there has never been a Coroner’s inquest to investigate the death of a migrant farm worker who died on the job in Canada.
Ontario, for example, has continued to exempt farm workers from protections available to most other workers in the province. Current regulations place workers at the risk of exposure to pesticides and other agro-chemicals, confined spaces, heat stress, and working at dangerous heights.
While we mourn the deaths of our friends, comrades and loved ones, today is a call to action to recognize one workplace death as one death too many. Let’s organize together to build power, to build strength, and to build our resistance against dangerous and deadly working conditions. We owe it to those who have passed, to their loved ones, and to future generations to ensure farm workplaces uphold the highest standards of safety and dignity for all.
Niagara’s billion-dollar wine and grape industry relies heavily on the skill and sacrifices of migrant workers, who are mainly from the Caribbean and Mexico. Their economic and social impact is far reaching, yet they remain invisible and excluded from today’s celebration.
Since 1966, thousands of migrant workers have been employed in Ontario’s fields and greenhouses. Migrant workers are tied to an employer, are denied labour and social mobility and must return home when their contracts end. Even though they pay into Canada’s social safety net, migrant workers are denied many of the basic entitlements Canadians enjoy. If we peel back the veil, we can see the wealth of local wineries and vineyards occurs on the backs of unfree workers.
When migrant workers are injured or sick they are often sent home, thus downloading healthcare costs to the families of the sick and injured. Many of these workers are no longer able to work after sustaining injuries and sicknesses while working in Canada. Between 2001-11, 787 migrant farm workers were returned to their countries of origin due to illness or injury — 98% of these repatriations were not based on workers’ requests.
Dozens of migrants have died as a result of working conditions on farms. These include the deaths of migrant farm workers such as Ned Livingston Peart, Sheldon McKenzie, Omar Graham and Ezequiel Cervantes-Nava, all of whom died from preventable workplace accidents. To date, there has never been a coroner’s inquest into the death of a migrant farm worker anywhere in Canada.
Farm workers are not entitled to overtime pay, holiday pay or many other protections under Ontario’s Employment Standard Act. Few protections exist for farm workers from pesticides, chemicals or dangerous working conditions.
Both occupational health & safety and employment standards are modernized to protect the rights of low-wage migrant workers.
Random spot-checks at farm sites and employer-provided accommodations.
Access to provincial health insurance on arrival, stopping the practice of medical repatriations whereby sick and injured migrants are sent home, and ending discriminatory workers compensation practises that deny migrant workers equal access to benefits.
This is Ned Peart. He was crushed to death by a tobacco kiln while working as a migrant farmworker in Ontario. His family together with Justicia for Migrant Workers have been fighting for over 10 years to change the laws so these kinds of accidents don’t happen again.
The hearing for his case was scheduled for March but was postponed until the Fall of 2016. We will need your support then and we will keep you updated! Help us pack the courtroom and also show our support to Mr. Peart’s family!