Ontario’s fruit and vegetable growers who employ about 20,000 temporary foreign workers, are refuting recent comments by Tomoya Obokala, the United Nations rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.
“Seasonal and temporary foreign workers are an essential part of local fruit and vegetable production in Ontario, and we do not support employers who mistreat or otherwise take advantage of people in their employ,” says Bill George, a grape grower and chair of the OFVGA labour section. ‘We recognize there is always more that could be done to ensure all workers have the opportunity for a positive and safe working experience while they are here, but assigning hateful and broad labels to all the hardworking farmers and their employees in the program is not the solution.”
Every year, Ontario fruit and vegetable growers employ seasonal and temporary foreign workers who come to Canada legally through the government-regulated Seasonal Agricultural Worker program (SAWP) and the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program’s agricultural stream.
Workers apply in their home countries for the opportunity to be part of these programs in Canada and sign legal contracts when accepting employment. All contracts are subject to federal government audits and inspections to ensure they follow program regulations and match the job specifications that the employer received government approval for when workers were hired.
SAWP contract terms also reflect decades of collaborative negotiations between Canada and the workers’ home countries which include Mexico, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, and the Eastern Caribbean Islands.
Canadian farmers who employ migrant farm workers under either of these two government programs have the same and, in some cases, stricter obligations to their temporary foreign workers as they do for their Canadian employees, including government-approved wage rates, access to health care such as OHIP in Ontario, Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan as well as workplace insurance coverage and safety protection. Farms are also required to provide every worker with a copy of the federal government’s publication outlining workers’ rights and protections to ensure they are aware of their rights.