Ratification of UFCW Canada first-contract at Manitoba farm historic breakthrough for migrant workers
TORONTO, June 23, 2008 – Workers at Mayfair Farms in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba have made history by overwhelmingly ratifying the first-ever contract to cover migrant agriculture workers employed seasonally at a farm operation in Canada.
The breakthrough, following a ratification vote by the workers on June 20, means that for the first time a group of migrant agricultural workers in Canada have a grievance procedure, a right to be recalled each season based on seniority, as well as other contract language to protect them from being evicted from their employer-owned lodgings, or expelled from Canada until their case is heard by an independent arbitrator.
"Equal labour rights for migrant workers is now more than a concept. It's a contract," says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. "It shows the way for thousands of other migrant and temporary workers brought to Canada for agriculture and other industries, and UFCW Canada is there to assist them. This is history in the making."
For more than a decade UFCW Canada has led the campaign for better rights and protection for migrant and domestic agriculture workers. It currently co-operates eight Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) centres across Canada, including one near Mayfair Farms.
The Mayfair Farms workers are represented by UFCW Canada Local 832, which originally applied to represent the unit in September 2006. Legal challenges by the employer followed but ultimately the unit was certified in June 2007.
A year later, almost to the day, the members voted resoundingly 93% to ratify a three-year contract that covers them and all other agriculture workers hired by Mayfair during the life of the contract.
"I want to welcome our newest members," says Robert Ziegler, president of UFCW Canada Local 832," and to congratulate them for having the courage to stand up for the same rights enjoyed by most other workers in Canada. We look forward to serving them, and learning from them."
In Quebec, three other bargaining units comprising of migrant agriculture workers are in various stages of the process leading to a first contract. In Ontario a decision is expected soon on a UFCW Canada constitutional challenge of Ontario's ban on agriculture workers forming unions for the purpose of collective bargaining.
UFCW Canada is one of Canada's largest and most progressive private sector unions with over 240,000 members working in food processing, warehousing and retailing, and many other sectors from coast to coast.