May 26, 2020 By Fruit and Vegetable
Starting May 29, temporary foreign workers will be allowed to enter New Brunswick as the government of New Brunswick moves into the next level of its COVID-19 recovery plan.
The province states that workers will be allowed to enter under strict public health guidance, including isolating for 14 days before beginning work.
“We are still prioritizing the safety of New Brunswickers but, as we restart our economy, we also have to find ways to meet the needs of the agriculture and seafood sectors,” said Premier Blaine Higgs in a released statement. “After consulting with the experts, including Public Health authorities, we have determined that the risk to New Brunswickers is now low, as long as strict safety measures remain in place.”
On April 28, New Brunswick amended its State of Emergency mandatory order and restricted any new temporary foreign workers from entering the province in response to COVID-19. Many farmers and provincial agriculture groups disagreed with the province’s decision explaining how difficult it would be to replace the skilled, reliable temporary foreign workers they depend on during the growing season.
The news that they will be allowed in is receiving mixed feedback – mostly good.
“We’re very happy to have the skilled workforce that we know has the tools, the ability to do the jobs that we need,” Lisa Ashworth, the president of the Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick, told the CBC in an interview.
Prior to the announcement that the ban would be lifted, New Brunswick agricultural organizations found that from the 18 farms who responded in an internal membership survey, approximately 2000 acres would not be planted and/or harvested because they were unable to use temporary foreign workers. The farms surveyed also estimated that their losses would amount to approximately $7 million.
While the losses may not be as high, the delay will still have an impact.
Some farmers remarked that May 29 is too late, noting that the two-week quarantine period pushes the timeline back even further. The delay caused by the provincial ban also resulted in some temporary foreign workers losing their permits or opting to seek work in other provinces.
Ashworth told the CBC there are still plenty of potential temporary foreign workers, but farms will be at a disadvantage since these workers won’t necessarily be familiar with New Brunswick farms.
The article also notes that Premier Higgs was “very disappointed” in the lack of interest from New Brunswickers to apply for jobs in the farming sector. The province even launched a virtual job matching platform, JobMatchNB, to connect workers with open positions, but only a couple hundred signed up for jobs.
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