Migrant workers gathered in Leamington for a solidarity-building barbeque
Migrant workers attend a “Know Your Rights” training session
Leamington, Ont. – August 18, 2023 – Migrant Worker Pilot Participants are gathering regularly at the UFCW Canada Agricultural Workers Centre in Leamington for training sessions and community-building opportunities.
State of Migrant Workers in Leamington
Annually, over 50,000 temporary foreign agricultural workers come to work in Canada. More than 10 per cent of them are based in Leamington, Ontario. Migrant workers are the backbone of the giant agribusiness industry and are among the most vulnerable workers in our economy.
Over 60% of Ontario's greenhouses can be found in the Leamington area. The Leamington agribusiness sector is a $3 billion industry, with major employers including Highbury Canco, Aphria, FortDearborn, Highline Mushrooms, Elring-Klinger, MGS Horticultural, Nature Fresh Farms, Hub International, Lakeside Produce, AMCO Farms and many more large agricultural producers (source: Municipality of Leamington). Principal crops are tomatoes, seedless cucumbers and peppers, cannabis, and more.
Canada’s industrial agricultural sector operates in a business environment that promotes the use of cheap labour where migrant workers are exploited and mistreated. UFCW Canada has been fighting for decades for better conditions for migrant workers – the Migrant Workers Representation Pilot aims to demonstrate the difference union representation can make.
Solidarity Building for Pilot Participants
These workers are currently participating in the Migrant Workers Representation Pilot. The pilot project involves governments in Mexico partnering with UFCW to have safety, health, and labour rights training delivered by union activists to migrant workers alongside union-provided advocacy supports and solidarity building opportunities.
There are currently over 50 workers in Canada participating in the pilot, and will remain in Canada until the fall, depending on their work term.
At the Workers Centre in Leamington, the pilot participants are attending regular workshops held by UFCW on topics such as “Know Your Rights”, which are designed to give workers the tools to protect themselves against employer exploitation. Additional training sessions are offering on topics such as CPP participation, parental benefits, health & safety, and open work permits.
UFCW representatives have helped participants navigate the Canadian health care system and other problems, while working closely with the Mexican Consulate. Pilot participants are regularly engaged in solidarity-building opportunities with social events like barbeques and other gatherings.
The Migrant Workers Representation Pilot will run until September 2024.