UFCW Canada

UFCW Canada

November 24, 2006 14:25 ET

FARM UNION CONTROVERSY REIGNITED BY HISTORIC TRIBUNAL

Four longtime Canadian workers at Ontario mushroom farm take case to first-ever AEPA tribunal, alleging they were fired for union activities and replaced by temporary workers brought from Thailand

Attention: Agriculture Editor, City Editor, Food/Beverage Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor GUELPH, ONT. ATTN: ONTARIO ASSIGNMENT EDITORS--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 24, 2006) - MEDIA ADVISORY FOR MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27

The first-ever action under Ontario's Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA) is set to begin in Guelph, Ontario on Monday, November 27th when a tribunal will commence a pre-hearing conference into charges that four longtime Canadian workers at a multi-million dollar mushroom cultivation factory farm were fired for being union sympathizers and replaced by temporary workers brought from offshore.

The four workers were fired in June 2006. They had been involved in a 2003 union organizing campaign at Rol-Land Farms in Kingsville, Ontario where a large majority of the workers voted to create a union, in spite of Ontario law which prohibits unions for agricultural workers. Instead, Ontario agricultural workers can only voice their workplace concerns under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA) which to date has never been tested nor asked to render a judgment.

On November 27th in Guelph, Ontario that first-ever test of the AEPA will reopen the controversy regarding the rights (or lack of them) for Ontario's 100,000 agricultural workers as the Tribunal begins its investigation of the charges.

Background on the AEPA:

The Agricultural Employees Protection Act was brought into force by the Eves Tory government in 2003 in response to a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada decision. That decision upheld a UFCW Canada Charter challenge that Ontario's ban on agricultural worker unions was unconstitutional. The Eves government replied to that ruling by creating the AEPA which they claimed satisfied the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling, by supposedly upholding Freedom of Association rights by allowing farm workers to "associate", even though farm workers remain prohibited from unionizing for the purposes of collective bargaining under the AEPA.

Instead, under the AEPA farm workers can form an association, gather up their concerns and take them to their employer, but the employer is under no obligation to listen to the workers or negotiate with them. Because of the hollow rights the AEPA offers, UFCW Canada returned to the courts in April 2004 to commence a new charter challenge citing the AEPA as an inadequate response to the Supreme Court 2001 decision.

That new application commenced in the Ontario Superior Court in September 2005. In January 2006 the challenge was temporarily suspended following a ruling by Justice James Farley in which he ruled the AEPA could not be judged as valid or not until it was tested by an action being brought before it.

THAT TEST WILL COMMENCE ON NOVEMBER 27TH IN GUELPH, ONTARIO AT 9:00 A.M. THE APPELANTS WILL ALSO BE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 26 IN GUELPH.

WHAT: AEPA Tribunal pre-hearing conference

WHEN: Monday, November 27, 2006 at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: The Government Building, Tribunal Office Boardroom
1 Stone Road West
Guelph, Ontario N1G 4Y2
(519) 826-3433

CONTACT: Stan Raper, UFCW Canada Agricultural Workers Program
416.674.8218 office
416.523-0937 cell

Michael Forman, UFCW Canada Communications
416-675-1104 office
416-579-8330 cell

/For further information: Additional contact:
Michael Forman, UFCW Canada Communications
416-675-1104 office
416-579-8330 cell
/ IN: AGRICULTURE, FOOD, JUSTICE, LABOUR, POLITICS

Contact Information

  • Stan Raper, Coordinator, UFCW CANADA
    Primary Phone: 416-674-8218
    Secondary Phone: 416-523-0937
    E-mail: sraper@ufcw.ca