Fired foreign agriculture workers at Rol-Land Farms speak out
TORONTO, ONTARIO - Dec. 11, 2008 — Seven foreign agriculture workers
Fired by Rol-Land, Carlos tells Toronto press conference he was " just treated like a commodity"
The seven workers are the remainder of more than 70 Mexican and Jamaican agriculture workers at the mushroom grow house outside of Guelph who were fired without notice on December 6, by Rol-Land Farms — a multi-million dollar a year, privately owned industrial agricultural corporation. The workers were in Canada on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, championed by the Harper government.
They were also evicted from the housing rented to them by Rol-Land Farms. Many of the workers have already been repatriated. A few have remained in Canada to share their stories.
Jorge a 28-year-old farm worker stated, “They didn’t give us a choice to stay, I know that they have more places to go other farms and ranches but they didn’t do nothing.”
Carlos, another one of workers added, “I think this is unfair, first because I’m not treated as a human being, I’m just treated as a commodity. I demand respect and respect for everybody.”
Stan Raper, National Coordinator of the Agriculture Workers Alliance and a UFCW Canada national representative explained that “workers that come here are under the mercy of the employer. There is no monitoring and no enforcement.”
Chris Ramsaroop from Justicia for Migrant Workers stated “We all know the slogan Good Things Grow in Ontario, but good things grow in Ontario through bad working conditions.”
Jenna Hennebry, the Associate Director of the International Migration Research Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University spoke about the culture of fear in Ontario corporate farms. “There’s a great fear of replacement, reprimand, of forced repatriation, of loss of pay, of loss of deposits to unregulated recruitment agencies, in some cases of immediate evictions, and it’s creating a culture of fear. There is fear in Canadian work places.”
On November 17, 2008 UFCW Canada gained a landmark victory for agriculture workers in Ontario at the Ontario Court of Appeal. The decision struck down the ban on farm unions in the province as a violation of the Charter rights of Ontario's more than 100,000 agriculture workers.
The court has given the McGuinty government until November 17, 2009 to provide farm workers with sufficient legislative protections to enable them to bargain collectively as other workers in the province.
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Rol-Land workers speak out
Toronto — December 11/08
Foreign workers decry 'harsh' dismissals from farms