UFCW Canada

UFCW Canada

June 30, 2005 12:24 ET

UFCW Canada wins Health & Safety protection for agricultural workers

VICTORY IS JUST FIRST STEP TOWARD FULL WORKPLACE RIGHTS AND PROTECTION Attention: Agriculture Editor, City Editor, Food/Beverage Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - June 30, 2005) - UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers Canada) has won Ontario agricultural workers protection for the first time under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The inclusion of farm workers was announced this week by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, with full protection for the approximately 100,000 workers to be phased in over the next year. Agricultural workers have been specifically excluded from OHSA since the act was created 25 years ago.

Under OHSA workers can refuse to do work that is unsafe without reprisal; must receive health and safety training and be included in joint Health and Safety committees; and be informed of workplace hazards such as pesticides, open machinery, and confined spaces.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour OHSA action comes just months after UFCW Canada filed a Charter challenge on behalf of agricultural workers against the Ontario government, citing the exclusion of agricultural workers from OHSA was a violation of those workers' equality rights.

According to Michael J. Fraser, national director of UFCW Canada, "we're glad that Ontario agricultural workers finally will have the basic workplace health and safety protections that other workers have always taken for granted. We've supported their struggle for more than a decade and we'll continue to press for equal rights for domestic and migrant agricultural workers, including the right to unionize."

Ontario continues to deny agricultural workers the right to join a union, in spite of a successful UFCW Canada constitutional challenge that the denial is an infraction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms equality provisions. In 2001 Canada's Supreme Court agreed but four years later that right is still denied. A new UFCW Canada charter challenge has been filed against Ontario and will be heard later this summer.

"The OHSA announcement gives farm workers rights they always should have had," said Fraser, "but it is just the first step. The right to join a union is the next step. To continue to deny Ontario agricultural workers the fundamental right of choosing whether to join a union is to continue to treat these workers as second class citizens."

UFCW Canada is one of Canada's largest private sectors with over 230,000 members coast-to-coast. It has led the campaign for justice for agricultural workers and currently operates four Migrant Agricultural Workers Support Centres in Ontario, as well as one in Quebec.

/For further information: The UFCW Canada 2004 National Report on the Status of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada is available in PDF format. Go to ufcw.ca/publications_main.cgi and you can find the report under the "Organizing Agricultural Workers Publications" menu, along with other articles about the challenges faced by agricultural workers in Canada./ IN: AGRICULTURE, FOOD, JUSTICE, LABOUR, POLITICS

Contact Information

  • Stan Raper, UFCW CANADA
    Primary Phone: 416-675-1104 ext. 232
    Secondary Phone: 416-333-2225
    E-mail: sraper@ufcw.ca