Toronto – July 8, 2021 – With the help of UFCW Canada, a group of migrant agricultural workers from Guatemala have successfully recovered their passports and work permits after they were illegally retained by their former employer in Redcliff, Alberta.
The migrant workers have been coming to Canada for the last three years and began experiencing daily harassment from their supervisor who would physically intimidate, yell, and scream at them. The workers made a heroic escape to Southern Ontario having to leave behind their essential documents. Once to safety, they called UFCW Canada's Agricultural Workers Support Centre for help in obtaining an open work permit as vulnerable workers and were aided by the union.
“The first day when we arrived at the farm, the owner requested our passports and work permits, telling us it was common practice at the farm,” says Rafael. “When we asked for a copy of our documents, the company’s HR gave us excuses and never actually returned our passports or work permits.”
With UFCW Canada’s support, and working with the Redcliff RCMP detachment, the workers documents were finally returned.
“Migrant agricultural workers are tied to one employer without any labour mobility rights or effective representation, and in Alberta cannot legally join a union,” says UFCW Canada National Representative Santiago Escobar. “These workers were essentially trapped at the mercy of the employer, which made them extremely vulnerable, but with their passports recovered we will be able to advocate further and process their open work permits.”
For more than three decades, UFCW Canada has worked in collaboration with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) to lead the fight for migrant workers’ rights in all sectors. To learn more about this important work, visit UFCW Canada’s Agriculture Workers website.