The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) supports recently announced Ontario legislation that will strengthen protections for vulnerable temporary workers. The proposed provincial legislation includes stiffer fines and penalties for employers who withhold the passports or work permits of international workers in their employ.
“Fruit and vegetable growers work hard to be good employers, and we are proud of our sector’s strong track record of compliance as employers of legal seasonal and temporary foreign workers,” says potato grower and OFVGA Chair Shawn Brenn. “Actions like withholding passports are already illegal under federal legislation, but we support the provincial government’s decision to strengthen protections for workers against these types of unacceptable activities.”
Ontario’s fruit and vegetable farmers employ approximately 20,000 seasonal and temporary foreign workers on their farms and in their greenhouses every year. These are workers who come to Ontario legally under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) or the agricultural stream of the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program.
“Statistics show that the agriculture sector in Canada has above-average employer compliance rates compared to other industries and sectors that use the TFW program. Compliance rates for Ontario farmers are particularly high, which is a testament to the efforts our growers have made in recent years to invest in worker safety, protection, and well-being,” adds Bill George, Chair of the OFVGA Labour Section. “Seasonal and temporary foreign workers are an essential part of local fruit and vegetable production in Ontario, and we do not support employers who mistreat or otherwise take advantage of people in their employ.”
Farmers who employ migrant farm workers under Canada’s officially recognized temporary foreign worker programs are subject to frequent federal, provincial, and foreign government compliance inspections. These employers have the same and, in some cases, higher obligations to their temporary foreign workers as they do for their Canadian employees, including government-approved wage rates; access to health care under OHIP, Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan; as well as workplace insurance coverage and safety protection – just like any Canadian employee is entitled to.
Workers with permits under SAWP or the TFW program also have access to a multilingual, 24/7 federal government support line they can use to raise concerns and seek help relating to their current employment.