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Abbotsford, B.C. – September 23, 2019 – Dozens of migrant farm workers from across the Abbotsford area recently joined UFCW Canada and the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) for a series of workshops on health and safety and knowing your rights at work.
Held at the Sandman Hotel in Abbotsford, B.C., the three workshops enabled migrant workers to learn more their rights at work and understand the three basic aspects of health and safety in the workplace, including the right to refuse unsafe work, the right to participate, and the right to know. Workers were also informed of new protections that provide open work permits to vulnerable workers trying to escape abusive workplaces – a major breakthrough that UFCW Canada played a major role in securing.
At the workshops, UFCW Canada and the AWA also announced the launch of three new online courses available in Spanish for migrant workers labouring in Canada. Many of the workshop participants instantly signed up for the courses and remarked that this type of information and training is badly needed.
“We are very happy to participate in this workshop because we didn’t know that we can refuse unsafe work. As migrant workers we don’t have this important information, as we don’t speak English and our bosses don’t really provide any training. So, these info sessions are making a difference and can even save our lives,” said Manuel Perez, a migrant worker who has been labouring in Canada for the last seven years.
At the meeting, workers highlighted the need for mandatory health and safety training for all participants enrolled in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP), noting that agriculture is one of the most dangerous jobs in Canada and is responsible for nearly eighty workplace fatalities per year. Attendees also learned that UFCW and the AWA have been able to help five workers obtain open work permits, and five more applications are currently being reviewed.
“Before attending this meeting, I didn’t know that I can obtain an open work permit. Being a farm worker experiencing abuses, it’s very common to face harassment and insults if you don’t achieve the goals set by the boss. You can be suspended for 3-4 days with no work, meaning no money. You can also be sent back to your home country. Now we know that UFCW and the AWA can help us if we are facing abuses,” said Jose Lopez, a migrant worker from Guatemala who has been coming to Canada for the last four years.
In addition to the workshops, UFCW and the AWA also visited and reached out to another sixty migrant farm workers through the union’s mobile services program, which was made available to workers who were not able to attend the workshops.
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 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.