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Montreal – July 5, 2017 – A new report exposes recruitment practices that saddle many Guatemalan agricultural workers recruited to Quebec with heavy debt and a fear of complaining about unsafe or unjust working conditions.
The report, Who, how and how much? The recruitment of Guatemalan workers to Quebec, stems from a collaborative research project between the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and several partner organizations: UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers union), the Agricultural Workers Alliance (AWA), UQAM's Service aux collectivités, and Justice in Motion.
Working in collaboration with the AWA and UFCW Canada, researchers interviewed individual workers, held focus groups, and conducted an anonymous survey. They found that the recruitment process is often a rough ride for Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) hired to work in Quebec through the agricultural stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Many TFWs take out crushing loans to cover various expenses and fees, including charges by recruiters operating abroad on behalf of Canadian employers.
“The economic exploitation of Guatemalan TFWs is not a new phenomenon. Exorbitant recruitment fees charged both by recruiters, and in the past by organizations like the International Organization for Migration (IOM) only add to the ongoing precariousness that workers experience both in Canada as well as in Guatemala,” says UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema. “UFCW Canada has had a long history of fighting to eradicate recruiter fees and to improve the working and living conditions for all agricultural workers across the country,” he adds.
"These debts may explain why TFWs are generally not inclined to act on their labour rights if and when things go wrong," explains Dr. Dalia Gesualdi-Fecteau, a professor in the Faculty of Political Science and Law at UQAM and lead author of the report. "They don't want to do or say anything that might, in their perception, jeopardize their employment and their ability to repay their debts."