Seasonal farm workers in B.C. go union with UFCW Canada
The victory makes Greenway the first-ever B.C. agriculture bargaining unit made up of seasonal agricultural workers who travel to Canada to work each season under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).
The approximately 40 workers at Greenway Farms harvest crops, as well as package produce for wholesale and export, "and we are proud to welcome them as the newest members of UFCW Canada Local 1518", says Ivan Limpright, the president of the local union.
"SAWP workers deserve the same protections as Canadian workers," said Limpright, "so now we will work to securing a first-contract that delivers that."
The victory at Greenway adds momentum to a nation-wide UFCW Canada campaign for agriculture workers' rights, under the Agricultural Workers Alliance banner. In July, seasonal workers at Mayfair Farms in Portage la Prairie ratified a first-contract as members of UFCW Canada Local 832. Currently there are four other farm applications pending in Quebec, as well as one in Saskatchewan.
"With more agriculture workers joining the union and establishing collective agreements," says Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada, "it encourages others to seek the legal representation to deal with systemic problems with SAWP. And wages aren't the only issue. So are fundamental workers' rights."
"We understand that farms have fiscal realities and this is not a campaign to put farmers out of business. Certainly hard work deserves fair pay, but for many of these workers what's as important is being recalled each season based on seniority, and a grievance procedure that protects them from being arbitrarily repatriated if they raise any workplace issues."