Food workers’ union welcomes Canadian Agri-food Pilot

UFCW Canada representatives at Agri-Food Immigration Pilot announcement. From left to right: Mark Hennessy, UFCW Canada; Claudia Colocho, UFCW 832; Hon. Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; Rob Nicholas, UFCW 175 & 633; and Derek Johnstone, UFCW Canada.

Mississauga, Ont. – July 12, 2019 – UFCW Canada welcomes the federal government’s announcement regarding an agri-food pilot that will create additional opportunities for temporary foreign workers in the agri-food sector to immigrate to Canada.

The announcement of the agri-food pilot follows many years of advocacy by UFCW Canada on this issue and is viewed as a victory for food workers, the long-term stability of the sector, and the country as a whole.  

The agri-food pilot, announced Friday in Mississauga by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, will provide an additional 2,700 permanent residency opportunities for temporary foreign workers engaged in the sector, and the meat industry in particular.

“Throughout the federal government’s review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, UFCW has been on the forefront by calling for desperately needed changes, including more pathways to citizenship, and we welcome today’s announcement as an important step in the right direction,” says Paul Meinema, the national president of UFCW Canada.

In lockstep with more permanent residency opportunities for temporary foreign workers, UFCW also focused its advocacy efforts on calling for more protections for migrant workers throughout the PR process, in response to reported cases of irresponsible employers using the promise of permanent status to further exploit TFWs.

The agri-food pilot will better protect migrants by requiring participating employers to collaborate with unions in order to receive a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for a 2-year period. In particular, unionized employers will require a letter of support from the union to qualify for the announced LMIA, and non-unionized employers will engage with the union in a discussion about worker protections through a tri-partite working group.  

“The mandated involvement of the union, as an important element of the announced pilot, is critical to reducing migrant vulnerability, and the UFCW commends the government for introducing this measure, and for further establishing the Canadian meat sector as a model for others to follow,” adds Meinema.

Employers hoping to participate in the program will also have to demonstrate firm intent to support TFWs wishing to pursue PR.

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.