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Fruit and vegetable growers welcome release of positive temporary foreign worker employer compliance statistics

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) welcomes the release of findings by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) from its recent compliance activities aimed at protecting temporary foreign workers during their employment in Canada.

The results from ESDC show that of their more than 2,100 completed inspections of employers of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) across all sectors of the economy, including fruit and vegetable production, between April 2022 and March 2023, 94% were found to be compliant with employment regulations and standards. This follows ESDC’s introduction last year of new regulations to improve its ability to conduct TFW program inspections and help employers adhere to the rules.

“We are proud of the fruit and vegetable sector’s strong track record of compliance and the ongoing investments growers and governments are continuing to make to ensure temporary foreign workers have a safe and positive experience working in Canada,” says Bill George, grape grower and chair of the OFVGA’s labor committee. “Temporary and seasonal workers play a critical role in Ontario’s food supply system, and we support measures that encourage their safety, protection, and well-being while they are working here.”

Ontario’s fruit and vegetable growers employ more than 20,000 seasonal and temporary foreign workers annually. These are workers who come to Ontario legally under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), or the agricultural stream of the federal government’s TFW program and help Canadian growers address labor needs on their farms.

Canadian farmers who employ seasonal and temporary farm workers under SAWP or the TFW program have the same obligations to those workers as they do to their Canadian employees. Government regulations stipulate that this includes government-approved wage rates; access to health care such as OHIP in Ontario; Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan as well as workplace insurance coverage such as WSIB in Ontario; and coverage under provincial employment standards and occupational health and safety legislation. Farms are also required to provide every worker with a copy of the federal government’s publication outlining workers’ legal rights and protections to ensure they are aware of their rights.

To ensure these requirements are being followed in practice, farms are subject to frequent federal, provincial, and, in many cases, foreign government compliance inspections. ESDC 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, and compliance rates for Ontario farmers are particularly high.

Workers with permits under SAWP or the TFW program 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. If workers are unable to have their specific employment-related concerns resolved through these channels, an open work permit program is available for vulnerable workers in these situations.

Through its More than a Migrant Worker initiative, the OFVGA has been giving a voice to the many thousands of seasonal and temporary farm workers in Ontario who take pride in the work they do here by letting them tell their stories in their own words while also drawing attention to the critical role that legal international farm workers play in the Canadian food system and efforts by farmers and government in recent years to invest in worker safety, protection, and well-being.

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association is the voice of Ontario’s fruit and vegetable producers on issues affecting the horticulture sector.


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