© Copyright AgMedia Inc
by SUSAN MANN
Seven of the more than 70 workers fired from a mushroom farm near Milton will tell their stories at a press conference in Toronto on Thursday.
Their employer, Rol-Land Farms Ltd., isn’t saying why the workers were fired without notice. A call to the Rol-Land facility near Milton was referred to the company head office in Blenheim.
“I’ve been told just to say that there’s no comment,” said a woman who answered the phone at Rol-Land’s head office. She wouldn’t give her name.
Rol-Land Farms employed the workers through the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The program enables employers in different industries, including agriculture, to bring low-skilled workers into Canada for up to two years.
Stan Raper, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada, says legal clinic representatives and some of the workers told the union about the firings.
Why were they let go? “We’re still trying to figure that out,” Raper says. “The workers don’t know and the company’s not saying.”
Some of the workers were called Thursday night (Dec. 4) and the rest heard Friday (Dec. 5) that they were being flown back to their countries on Saturday (Dec. 6). The workers were also evicted from their company-supplied apartments. The group that was fired was made up of mostly Jamaican women and Mexican men.
Raper says he’s not sure how many workers stayed. The seven people speaking at the press conference Thursday are being helped by community organizations in Toronto.
“It’s pretty sad that this kind of thing would happen just before Christmas,” he says. “These are honest, hard-working people who are trying to provide for their families.”
UFCW Canada is exploring a number of legal avenues, including if there’s a breach under the Employment Standards Act for lack of notice or if there’s something under the Landlord and Tenant Act about giving adequate notice before eviction.
The workers told Raper they had two-year contracts. Most of those fired were at their jobs for four to eight months.
UFCW Canada had contacted a number of farm workers in Ontario to inform them of their rights and about health and safety matters. Workers at Rol-Land’s mushroom farm were contacted about a month ago. But UFCW Canada hasn’t been doing any union organizing drives, he says.
UFCW Canada claims the Temporary Foreign Worker program is flawed because the work permit is tied to one employer and there isn’t any government monitoring or enforcement.
That’s just asking for trouble, Raper says, because there are bad employers who will abuse the program. BF