F.E.R.M.E.

F.E.R.M.E.

November 06, 2006 13:30 ET

F.E.R.M.E./Survival of Quebec Market Garden Producers in 2007-2008: A Major Issue for Everyone in Quebec

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 6, 2006) - The Fondation des entreprises en recrutement de main-d'oeuvre etrangere has set the record straight concerning the conditions of seasonal farm workers in Quebec.

The general manager of FERME, Mr. Rene Mantha, confirms: "Legal status for workers, wage hikes of 11% over 3 years, no tax payable and free housing, all this is already part of current working conditions. To these are added paid statutory holidays, contributions to the Quebec Pension Plan, the possibility to withdraw parental insurance benefits and vacation pay."

Mr. Mantha just clarified at a press conference: "We provide the best working conditions for farm labour in North America. We're also expecting more than 4,500 workers in 2007."

In the face of an aggressive campaign to unionize the workers, Ms. Isabelle Charbonneau, the owner of FRAISEBEC, one of the largest family farms in Quebec, is quite concerned. "The foreign workers who come to Quebec want to work long hours to make more money. If we have to, say, pay them time and a half after 40 hours, that'd be the equivalent of killing off part of our market garden industry."

Since competition from the United States is really tough, many small family farms, which are already struggling, realize they actually have no other choice but to eliminate jobs, move towards mechanization, significantly reduce their crop production areas or even close their doors.

The program has been running in Canada for 32 years, and Mexican workers form the majority of the employees who have been returning to Quebec for many years. A survey conducted by this country's department of labour confirms that 92% of the workers are satisfied with the existing program.

FERME's Mr. Mantha concluded: "It's a no-brainer: if our products get more expensive to produce, once again it's the consumers, at the end of the line, who'll have to take up the slack. If we want to stay competitive against other countries and protect our Quebec producers, we have to act responsibly and limit our production costs."

FERME represents 350 horticultural producers, most of which are market garden producers. The Fondation ensures that the federal program runs smoothly in Quebec. It supervises living and working conditions for foreign farm workers during their stay in Quebec.

FERME Voyages, FERME's travel agency, is responsible for all reservations, airport welcomes and the provision of all relevant information as soon as the seasonal workers set down on Quebec soil and when they take off to return home.

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