Ken Forth of the Foreign Agricultural Resources Management Service is denying union accusations that Ontario farmers discriminate against women when they recruit seasonal workers from Mexico.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has filed a complaint with human rights tribunals in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, accusing farmers of specifying they want only men and that’s why less than four per cent of the seasonal workers recruited from Mexico are women.
But Forth says many Ontario farmers prefer women and simply can’t get them.
The Mexican government chooses who may participate, he says.
There may be some situations where farmers prefer their recruits to be of the same gender because of housing, Forth said.
He called the union complaint ludicrous and said someone is trying to make something out of nothing.
The union has lobbied constantly for improved conditions for imported seasonal workers and has unsuccessfully tried to recruit them into union locals.
Ontario legislation has made it difficult to unionize farm workers; the province has had to amend its legislation twice after losing union-backed court challenges.