August 25, 2020 By Fruit and Vegetable
The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) are publicly supporting calls to create an independent body to receive and address workplace complaints from agri-food employees.
The Globe and Mail published an article on August 17 in which employees and advocates were quoted as calling for an “independent oversight agency to deal with complaints” from agri-food employees.
OGVG and its members are committed to their workers, their families and their communities. The organization supports the call for an independent body and remains committed to enhancing a full suite of regulatory tools, support services and other workplace protections for agri-food employees, such as:
- Additional testing for all agri-food employees.
- Increased joint on-farm inspections with the federal government under the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program framework to identify and address bad players.
- A ban on employees working at more than one operation.
- A crackdown on the use unscrupulous recruiters who operate outside of the law, asking all levels of government to work with the sector to address this issue.
- Source and distribute additional PPE for employees to use in their communities as well as distribute PPE to local businesses to ensure masks and social distancing are the norm at all commercial establishments.
OGVG and other agri-food stakeholders have been working with the federal and provincial governments, along with a number of provincial, regional and local authorities, to manage through the COVID-19 crisis. The complicated interjurisdictional landscape created has been met with repeated calls from OGVG to create a more streamlined governance system for decision-making and coordinated action. A coordinated approach to addressing employee concerns builds on the progress made over the past several months.
“OGVG has been calling for a number of additional tools and services to help address acute issues with employee safety and supports throughout the COVID-19 pandemic” said Joe Sbrocchi, general manager of OGVG. “As stated earlier this month, we believe an ombudsman-like position to mediate employee-employer interactions would serve both parties and help to strengthen the reputation of the long-standing temporary foreign worker programs.”
“Earlier this month we thanked the Government of Canada for additional investments to provide support and protections for foreign workers” said Justine Taylor, science and government relations manager for OGVG. “We believe that using those resources to create a coordinated body to address worker concerns and deal with a myriad of challenges makes good sense and will help agri-food employees and employers alike.”
At the beginning of August, the Canadian government committed an investment of $58.6 million into the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to increase supports for temporary foreign workers, reform the employer inspections program, and improve living and working conditions on farms. Part of the investment included $16.2 million set aside to improve the employer inspections regime and making improvements to how tips and allegations of employer non-compliance are addressed.
A list of Canadian government resources for temporary foreign workers and COVID-19:
- FAQ: Navigating COVID-19 outbreaks on Ontario farms
- Workplace Safety and Prevention Services’s (WSPS) COVID-19 Hub
- WSPS’s Guidance on Health and Safety for Agricultural Employers Using Temporary Help During COVID-19
- (April 7) British Columbia’s Protecting B.C. farmers and farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
- (April 5) Frequently asked questions: Changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program regarding COVID-19
- (April 1) Letter from Ministers to employers – Temporary Foreign Workers
- (March 31) Ontario Ministry of Health’s Guidance for Temporary Foreign Workers
- (March 27) Guidance for Employers of Temporary Foreign Workers Regarding COVID-19
- Temporary Foreign Worker Program information found within Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Employment and Social Development Canada
- (March 20 release) The Government of Canada’s original update on travel exemptions for temporary foreign workers and seasonal agricultural workers
- Canada’s home page for COVID-19 information and resources: canada.ca/coronavirus
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