Public relations specialist Stephen Murdoch issued a spirited defence of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Programs (SAWP) today, calling it “a model to governments and agricultural organizations around the world, providing Ontario fruit and vegetable growers a vital source of supplementary labour.”
“Not only does the 48-year-old program benefit farmers and Canada’s economy as a whole, but also it gives the seasonal workers well-paying employment, benefits and educational opportunities not available to them at home,” Murdoch says.
Then he set about countering “recent media coverage” that he said “has highlighted numerous misperceptions and inaccurate generalizations about SAWP and Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.”
Myth: Unemployed Canadians who want to work on fruit and vegetable farms are being denied jobs because growers are hiring temporary seasonal workers through SAWP.
Reality: SAWP was created in 1966 to help farmers respond to a shortage of agricultural labour and the program continues to serve the same role today. SAWP is a Canadians-first program, which means that seasonal labour is hired from participating countries only if agricultural operators cannot find domestic workers to fill vacancies.
Myth: Seasonal labour hired through SAWP are paid less than Canadian workers.
Reality: Seasonal workers hired through SAWP receive an hourly wage set by Employment and Social Development Canada. The hourly rate is not less than the provincial minimum wage rate or the local prevailing rate paid to Canadians doing the same job, whichever is greatest.
Myth: Seasonal workers hired through SAWP aren’t covered by the same employment rights as Canadian agricultural workers.
Reality: Workers hired through SAWP fall under the same employment rights as Canadians receive, such as WSIB, certain Employment Insurance benefits, occupational health and safety and provincial health care during their term of employment.
Myth: Housing for seasonal workers on agricultural operations is not subject to any guidelines.
Reality: Seasonal housing — provided at the expense of the employer —
inspected annually by local Ministry of Health officials. Water is tested to
ensure it meets safety standards and the housing unit is inspected to ensure it
meets provincial guidelines. Employers are required to maintain seasonal
housing units in good repair.
Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is administered in Ontario by Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.).
More information about the program can be found at www.farmsontario.ca .
I remain critical of the program for two main reasons. There are refugee farmers living in Ontario who can't land jobs with farmers and this program makes foreign workers captives little different from slaves because they can't leave other than being sent back home.