UFCW Canada

UFCW Canada

July 12, 2007 16:37 ET


Commentary by Wayne Hanley, National President of UFCW Canada regarding the unionization of migrant farm workers at Mayfair Farms in Portage La Prairie

Attention: Agriculture Editor, City Editor, Food/Beverage Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor WINNIPEG, MB--(Marketwire - July 12, 2007) -

The recent decision by the Manitoba Labour Board to certify a union of migrant workers at Mayfair Farms in Portage La Prairie was not only a just decision but wholly in keeping with a ruling by Canada's Supreme Court on June 8th that the right to collective bargaining is guaranteed to all workers in Canada under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Yes, this includes migrant workers.

To profess that it should be left solely to the Canadian and Mexican governments to determine what is best for these workers is not only paternalistic, it also ignores the systemic shortfalls of this arrangement over the last 30 years. We know because over the past decade UFCW Canada has documented hundreds of reports from migrant workers who have come to our support centres regarding a chronic shortfall in the monitoring and enforcement of safe and decent working and living conditions for many of them.

Too often workers who voice their concerns to their employer or to the Mexican consulate are quickly shipped home at their own expense. Some union supporters who weren't brought back to Mayfair Farms this season can attest to that.

Even more alarming is the federal government's recent moves to expand the use of new Temporary Foreign Worker programs with even less supervision and protection currently afforded to migrant farm workers.

People who do hard, dangerous and numbing work certainly deserve a say in what goes on in their workplace. Without a collective agreement the
workers at Mayfair Farms have none.

Regarding the straw man argument that these workers might not benefit from a contract because the employer would simply not invite them back next year, one of the priorities of the agreement would be the negotiation of a seniority and recall system that would prohibit the employer from blocking an employee's return the next season without justifiable cause.

As for the blatantly false charges about who said what to whom and in what language during the organizing campaign, the workers know the real story and they will be more likely to reveal it once their contract is secured.

Finally, for the alarmists who have suddenly become sensitive to the Spanish-language needs of these workers, if they are sincere they and the government should waste no time in making sure the labour laws, health and safety regulations, as well as training materials regarding workplace hazards are all made available in Spanish to these workers before they arrive to work each season.

Wayne Hanley is the National President of UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers of Canada). UFCW Canada is one of Canada's largest private-sector unions with more than 240,000 members cost to coast.
/For further information: Blake Crothers, Communications Director
UFCW Local 832

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