Union calls on Ford government to include ag workers in Ontario Labour Relations act
August 25, 2023 By Globe Newswire
Aug. 25, 2023 – The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Canada, the country’s leading advocate for agricultural workers, is demanding the Ford government take action in response to an Ontario farm owner retaliating against migrant workers who were speaking out about unacceptable housing conditions.
The union calls upon the Ford government to include all agricultural workers, both local and migrants, in the Ontario Labour Relations act, protecting their right to freedom of association.
UFCW Canada represents more than 250,000 members across Canada working in every sector of the food industry from field to table.
Five Jamaican migrant workers were recently repatriated due to speaking up about unacceptable housing conditions. These workers held a one-day strike to protest the poor housing conditions provided by the employer, where sewage was spilling over into their living quarters.
Under current Ontario legislation, the workers are lacking in mechanism to protect their rights. “If these workers were unionized, they would have been able to exercise their right to strike,” says Santiago Escobar, National Representative at UFCW Canada. “The current legislation, the Agricultural Employees Protection Act, bans local and migrant agricultural workers from being able to access the same fundamental labour rights as everyone else – despite being one of the most vulnerable worker populations in the country.”
In 2010, the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) ruled that Canada and Ontario, through Ontario’s ban on farm unions, violated the human rights of the more than 100,000 migrant and domestic agriculture workers in the province. In 2017, the Government of Canada finally ratified core ILO convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, which has been on the books as a core convention since 1949. Despite this, the federal government has done nothing to call out Ontario’s continued denial of fundamental labour rights to agricultural workers.
In addition, UFCW Canada calls on the Federal Government to establish a federal tribunal to allow for the review and appeal of repatriation decisions in advance of temporary foreign workers being sent home by employers and make unionization mandatory to protect the well-being of migrant workers.
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