Migrant workers win historic contract in Abbotsford

This is the first time UFCW Canada union has negotiated a contract specifically for this sector of the workforce.

Abbotsford, B.C. (17 Nov. 2010) - A group of seasonal workers in Abbotsford have won a precedent-setting contract that includes higher wages and benefits like overtime pay and statutory holidays.

The contract is between Sidhu and Sons Nursery and 40 employees from Mexico and the Caribbean hired under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) union has included seasonal or migrant workers in previous collective bargaining agreements. However, this is the first time the union has negotiated a contract specifically for this sector of the workforce.

UFCW Canada spokesperson Andy Neufeld says the contract is the result of three years of appeals to the B.C. Labour Relations Board (BCLRB).

The settlement includes a wage increase of 10 cents an hour in the first and second years of the contract and 13 cents the third year. Also included are increases in vacation pay, overtime and pay for statutory holidays.

The contract also ensures the right to recall, meaning the employer has a legal obligation to hire workers back for subsequent seasons if they have fulfilled their job duties.

In 2008, seasonal workers at Greenway Farms became the first in B.C. to join the union. The following year, Greenway management won a decertification vote that removed the union from the farm.

Union organizers claimed that this occurred after Greenway Farms management replaced many of its season workers with local labour.

Neufeld said the workers affected by the contract have already returned to their home countries for the winter.

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

NUPGE

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