UFCW Canada

UFCW Canada

September 15, 2008 08:18 ET

Farm workers repatriated after exercising human rights

14 agriculture workers in B.C. removed from jobs and sent to Mexico a day after Canadian trade union applies to represent them

Attention: Agriculture Editor, Assignment Editor, City Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor VANCOUVER, B.C. >>> MEDIA ADVISORY--(Marketwire - Sept. 15, 2008) -

ATTN: B.C. NEWS & ASSIGNMENT EDITORS FOR MON. SEPT 15 & TUES. SEPT 16, 2008

The B.C. Labour Relations Board will conduct a union certification vote today, Monday, September 15, for a greenhouse in Abbotsford, Britsih Columbia despite the fact that half of the workers in the bargaining unit will not be able to participate in the process- because they have been removed from their jobs and sent to Mexico.

The repatriated workers were terminated by Floralia Plant Growers Limited late in the day on September 5 and rushed to the Vancouver International Airport the next morning where they were directed onto a plane and put in the air by 1:00 p.m.

The mass termination and repatriation came on the heels of an application for union certification that was filed by United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW Canada) Local 1518, on September 4, to represent 29 employees at the Floralia facility.

"It's time for us as Canadians to take a serious look at the way agriculture workers are treated in Canada, and it's time for us to tell our governments 'enough is enough," said UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley.

"It's time for us, as Canadians, to stop employers from 'returning' or 'exchanging' agriculture workers like some sort of commodity. The people who harvest our food deserve the same rights and protections as workers in every other major Canadian industry," said Hanley, the leader of one of Canada's largest private sector unions.

The repatriation of the Floralia workers follows an incident in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba last month where six migrant workers were removed from their workplace before an application for union certification could be filed with the Manitoba Labour Board.

UFCW Canada Local 1518 has lodged a formal complaint with the B.C. labour board that charges Floralia with breaching the province's labour relations code. "In light of the employer's behaviour and disregard for the B.C. labour relations process, we have asked the Board to rectify the situation by imposing remedial certification," said Local 1518 President Ivan Limpright.

"We also expect the Board to award the repatriated men their lost wages and to issue an order that compels the employer to provide the workers with passage to Canada and to immediately reinstate them to their former positions," said Limpright.

The first day of Board hearings was last Friday and more dates have been scheduled for this week, beginning on Tuesday, September 16.

The Board has issued numerous summonses for the Floralia workers to appear before the Board, and the Board has taken special steps to help the workers understand their rights and alleviate their fears.

UFCW Canada in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) operates eight agriculture workers support and advocacy centres across Canada, which have provided assistance to thousands of workers since the first centre opened its doors in 2002.

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www.awa-atc.ca/ IN: AGRICULTURE, ECONOMY, FOOD, JUSTICE, LABOUR

Contact Information

  • Michael Forman, National Office Communications, UFCW CANADA
    Primary Phone: 416-675-1104 ext. 249
    Secondary Phone: 416-579-8330
    E-mail: mforman@ufcw.ca