October 23, 2006 07:55 ET

FERME: Foreign Seasonal Farm Workers in Quebec

An Outstanding 2006 Balance Sheet

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 23, 2006) - While many large businesses are cutting back on their regional labour force to create jobs abroad, Quebec reported a 12% increase in the number of its seasonal farm workers coming mainly from Mexico, Guatemala and the Antilles.

Moreover, the program, affecting seasonal farm labour, has been growing non-stop in Quebec since 1989. The number of seasonal workers rose from a few hundred to close to 4,240 in a few years, and already the welcome mat is expected to be rolled out for more than 4,500 workers here next year.

No slackers here: they want to work over 60 hours a week!

FERME, Fondation des entreprises en recrutement de main-d'ouvre etrangere (Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services - FARMS) coordinates the program in Quebec and asks farm producers to provide the hours being sought by the seasonal workers to the best of their abilities. Its general manager, Mr. Rene Mantha, confirms: "Here, most of the people don't want to work less, but rather want to get the greatest number of hours a week. That way, the workers can save up money so they can give their families a better quality of life."

For their part, the governments of each of the countries involved in the recruitment process are involved in selecting and posting all assigned workers.

The 2006 balance sheet shows that 75% of the seasonal workers come from Mexico. Mexican consulate also visited over 90 Quebec farms this year, where 1,450 of their people were working.

Participants are protected by the federal foreign labour program, which allows workers to benefit from working conditions that are clearly much better than those of Mexicans working elsewhere such as in the United States.

An annual meeting between the governments of Canada and Mexico is already on the agenda for the coming weeks in Mexico City to make an overall assessment of the program and plan the 2007 collaboration.

FERME, which operates independently, ensures that the entire federal program runs smoothly in Quebec. It represents 350 employers and has solid consular and government backing.

FERME Voyages, FERME's travel agency, is responsible for all reservations, from the initial welcome at and return to the airport, and the provision of all necessary information as soon as the seasonal workers set down on Quebec soil.

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