UFCW joins migrant workers in calling for stronger health and safety protections

Simcoe, Ont. – July 16, 2019 – UFCW Canada activists recently joined migrant workers from across Ontario to participate in the province’s “Next 5-Year Occupational Health and Safety Strategy” session. 

Held at the Army, Navy, and Air Force Club in Simcoe, Ontario, the meeting sought input from migrant farm workers and labour activists on how the province can make agricultural work safer and healthier for workers participating in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

“We appreciate that the Ontario Ministry of Labour was willing to meet with us and listen to our concerns in order to learn about workers’ experiences and find ways to improve health and safety protections for migrant workers,” says UFCW Canada National Representative Santiago Escobar, who joined forty migrant workers from Mexico and Jamaica at the session.

At the meeting, workers highlighted the need for mandatory health and safety training for all participants enrolled in the SAWP and TFWP, noting that agriculture is one of the most dangerous jobs in Canada and is responsible for nearly 80 workplace fatalities per year.

“Before attending this meeting, I didn’t know that I can refuse to work if the weather is too hot, or if I don’t have the necessary training to operate a machine,” said Pedro M., a migrant worker from Mexico. “This is very useful to know,” he added.

“We feed communities and we work very hard. The least we can ask for is for fairness and respect. When you get injured at work, you don’t tell the employer because you can be sent back home,” said Edward M., a migrant worker from Jamaica. “As long we don’t have the right to join a union, accidents and fatalities will continue in the agricultural sector,” he added.

For more than three decades, UFCW has led the fight for migrant workers’ rights in Canada. In collaboration with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA), UFCW Canada operates a national, on-the-ground network of Worker Support Centres with staff and volunteers helping thousands of migrant workers to navigate and enforce their current legal rights and entitlements, as well as providing health and safety and “know your rights” training. To learn more about this important work, click here.

How can I enforce my rights at work?

If you are a migrant worker who is experiencing abuse from an employer or unsafe working conditions, contact us toll-free at 1-877-778-7565. All contact with UFCW Canada is treated as strictly confidential.