Migrant workers discuss need for open work permits at Leamington consultation


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Leamington, Ont. – April 22, 2019 – UFCW Canada recently joined over forty migrant workers to meet with federal government officials and discuss the need for open work permits for vulnerable migrant workers who have suffered physical, sexual, psychological, or financial abuse from their employers while working in Canada.

The meeting was held at the UFCW Agriculture Workers Support Centre in Leamington, Ontario, and served as a follow-up to previous government consultations on reforming Canada’s immigration system and updating the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP).

At the March 31 meeting, migrant agricultural workers shared their views on the need for open work permits that would allow workers to escape abusive employers. Participants also explained why it is currently difficult for workers to file complaints about their employers, given that migrant and agricultural workers lack the right to join a union in much of Canada.

Based on the feedback provided at this latest consultation, UFCW Canada is encouraging the Government of Canada to adopt the following recommendations in order to strengthen labour rights and protections for migrant workers enrolled in the TFWP and Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program (SAWP):

“Implementing these recommendations would help mitigate migrant workers’ fear of retribution and repatriation to their home countries and would give them a vehicle to exercise their labour rights while working in Canada,” says Paul Meinema, National President of UFCW Canada. “That is why we are calling on the government to act on this feedback as it explores open work permits for vulnerable migrant workers,” the UFCW leader adds. 

As Canada’s leading advocate for food workers, UFCW Canada works closely with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) in operating a national, on-the-ground support network of volunteers and staff who offer information, training, and support services to migrant, temporary foreign, and seasonal agricultural workers across the country. To learn more about these efforts, click here.