An October 17 media conference outside of Vancouver's Mexico Consulate drew dozens of UFCW Canada and AWA activists along with community allies — all calling for Mexico to stop hiding behind diplomatic immunity and face the charges that agencies of the Mexico government, as well as its Vancouver consulate, conspired with two agriculture operations in the Lower Mainland to blacklist migrant agricultural workers from returning to Canada because they were union sympathizers.
The charges were filed by UFCW Canada Local 1518 with the BC Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) in April 2011 (see Directions 11.20) regarding the union busting activities at two Fraser Valley agriculture operations — Sidhu and Sons Nursery and Floralia Farms. UFCW Canada Local 1518 collective agreements are in force at both locations where the majority of members come to Canada each season under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).
In the wake of the charges, Mexico has filed a notice of sovereign immunity — arguing the BCLRB has no authority to examine Mexico's actions, nor the evidence deposited with the board that included leaked documents from the Vancouver Mexico consulate which substantiate the blacklisting charges.
"Mexico can't hide its contempt for these workers behind a claim of immunity. In Canada, you play by Canadian rules," says Ivan Limpright, the president of UFCW Canada Local 1518. "Mexico entered into an agreement that is governed by the laws of Canada and British Columbia. That includes our labour laws, and the right of all workers, including migrant workers, to join a union."
The BCLRB is now considering the immunity issue before it proceeds with hearing the charges in February 2012.
"The truth is you have Mexico cracking a whip across our border," says Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada. "It's wrong, it's illegal, and it can't be allowed to continue."