Wednesday, July 28, 2010
SUPPORT GUATEMALAN MIGRANT LABOUR IN CANADA:
When one thinks of migrant labour in Canada one usually thinks of Mexico, but there are large numbers of workers from other Central American nations presently in Canada, and they perhaps have even less protection than the Mexicans whose situation is already a national scandal. Here's a news item and appeal from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union about this situation.
New campaign calls for action on Guatemalan migrant abuse
UFCW Canada and the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) are spearheading a new campaign to denounce the systematic abuse and violation of the rights of Guatemalan farm workers who come to Canada through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP).
The campaign, called No More Injustice and Oppression against Migrants!, calls attention to the illegal treatment of Guatemalan workers and the degrading terms of a contract imposed on them by FERME, an employer association, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – an intergovernmental agency mandated to “promote humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all,” according to its website.
“Over 4,000 Guatemalan workers come to Canada every year to harvest our food and make one our most important industries possible,” says Andrea Galvez, coordinator of the AWA Centre in Saint-Remi, Quebec, where many Guatemalan migrants work. “But we repeatedly hear from Guatemalan migrants who are degraded and demoralized by the individuals and organizations who cash-in on the temporary foreign workers program.”
Workers are recruited in Guatemala by the IOM and must ante up a $400.00 deposit – a huge amount of money for the average Guatemalan – before they’re allowed to work in Canadian fields. If the worker refuses to obey the outrageous terms listed in the contact, he or she can be terminated and the deposit is not returned, which is a terrifying prospect for workers because they generally borrow from friends and family to get the cash.
Although the TFWP is administered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), the contract imposed on migrants does not allow the ministry to intervene in the terms of work. Once the contract is signed, the worker is brought in and left to the mercy of employers.
UFCW Canada and the AWA are strongly urging Canadian authorities to open an official investigation into FERME and the IOM’s management of the project, and are calling for immediate and substantive reforms to the TFWP.
All activists are encouraged to join this fight by sending messages and by using their social networks to help spread the word by posting links to the campaign page.
Please go to this link to send the following letter to (shudder) Prime Minister Steven Harper in support of Guatemalan migrant workers in Canada.
Dear Prime Minister:
Approximately 4,000 Guatemalan men and women come to work in the Canadian agriculture industry every year. As you know, they enter Canada through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, which has been widely criticized since it was introduced over seven years ago because it offers even less protection for migrants who come to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).
Workers are recruited in Guatemala by the IOM and have to accept a series of inhumane conditions to come to Canada. Although the Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training is administered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), the contract imposed on migrants does not allow the ministry to intervene in the terms of work. Once the contract is signed, the worker is brought in and left to the mercy of employers. I am writing to strongly request a complete review of the pilot project and the dehumanizing contract it imposes on workers.
I am asking Canadian authorities to open an official investigation into FERME and IOM’s management of the pilot project. I also want to make sure that those workers willing to come forward and file complaints will be heard without fear of deportation, and that workers already fired for voicing their concerns are given the opportunity to be heard as well.
Moreover, I am asking for the creation of a neutral body that will regulate the program and ensure acceptable working conditions and fair treatment.
We all have an interest in creating a strong Canadian agriculture industry. However, we cannot allow this to be done at the expense of workers’ rights and Canada’s well earned international reputation for decency and fairness. I strongly urge you to demonstrate leadership on this issue by doing the right thing.