Farm profits soar but workers are still exploited | National Union of Public and General Employees

Farm profits soar but workers are still exploited

Farm sector total net revenues increased for the second consecutive year to $3.3 billion — up $1.3 billion.

Ottawa (28 May 2009) - Profits in Canadian agriculture continue to soar while workers in the field remain one of the most exploited labour groups in Canada.

The employees include more than 22,000 agricultural workers who come to Canada each season under the federal government’s Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (CSAWP).

This week Statistics Canada reported that farm sector total net revenues increased for the second consecutive year to $3.3 billion — up $1.3 billion from 2007.

Yet wages for most agriculture workers remain the lowest in Canada “because the system is set up to keep these workers powerless,” says Wayne Hanley, national president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada).

UFCW Canada, in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance, operates nine agriculture worker support centres across Canada. In 2008 the centres handled more than 40,000 inquiries from both domestic and CSAWP workers.

“CSAWP workers have no say about their pay or working conditions. That is strictly left up to the government and the farm lobby,” Hanley notes.  “It is the same story for all farm workers in Ontario and Alberta because their Charter rights continue to be violated by provincial bans on farm unions.”

Field workers in Alberta are also excluded from protections of the province’s workplace health and safety regulations. Only token protections exist in Ontario where farms receive a provincial safety inspection about once a decade.

“The blatant discrimination against agriculture workers has to end,” says Hanley. “It means billions in profits for the agriculture industry at the cost of the workers' health, safety and workplace rights."

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has signed a formal protocol with the UFCW Canada to support the union in its ongoing drive to organize long-exploited migrant farm workers in Canada.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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