Monday, October 18, 2021

Temporary worker agencies face scrutiny

The province is cracking down on agencies that manage temporary workers.

Apparently workers are owed about $3.3 million because they were paid less than minimum wage or otherwise cheated, the province says.

Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton has introduced legislation to address the abuses which the government said includes farm employers.

Both the agencies and employers who hire their temporary workers will be required to obtain a licence.

Last year during the furore over temporary farm workers, it emerged that some employers and agencies in the Windsor-Leamington area were exploiting foreigners.

"From day one, my ministry has worked to ensure any employer who abuses the rights of their workers – no matter their passport – will quickly find our officers at their front door,” said McNaughton. 

“Today’s announcement sends a clear message to anyone who still thinks they can break the rules that time is up. This legislation would, if passed, be the toughest of its kind in Canada – ensuring every worker in Ontario has unprecedented protection today and, in the years to come.”

Inspections by ministry officers have shown that there are multiple temporary help agencies in Ontario that are illegally paying people below the minimum wage and denying other basic employment rights. 

In doing so, they gain an unfair competitive advantage over law-abiding agencies by undercutting rates, the government said.

Lake Erie watershed funding opens


The final round of funding for property owners in the Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair watersheds will be open from Nov. 2  to Nov. 8, the federal and provincial governments have announced.

A total of $2.58 million is available for projects such as:

·       planting cover crops to reduce soil erosion; 

·       modifying equipment to reduce soil tillage and compaction; 

·       improving nutrient placement; and 

·       planting of permanent trees or vegetation strips to serve as windbreaks. 

The federal-provincial program aims to reduce the risk of nutrient losses, to improve water quality and improve soil health.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said “Canadian farmers are leading stewards of our environment, always looking for new tools and innovations to ensure their sustainability.

“I encourage farmers in Southwestern Ontario to make a project application with this exciting new cost-shared program, which can help improve their farms and the Lake Erie watershed.” 

Ontario Agriculture Minister Lisa Thompson said “the Great Lakes are vitally important to everyone in Ontario – from farmers to businesses and the millions of people who live in communities near these vast bodies of water.

“The investments made by federal and provincial governments in the on-farm projects supported through LEADS are greatly appreciated in the agricultural community,” said Chad Anderson, president of Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.

“This funding will result in significant environmental gains that improve soil health and water quality in the Lake Erie basin.” 

The LEADS initiative supports Ontario’s commitment to a 40 per cent reduction of phosphorus run off into Lake Erie and its watershed by 2025. 

New tractors in short supply

New tractors will be more difficult to find this winter.

Deere and Co. workers in the United States are on strike.

CNH Industrial, an Italian-American tractor and vehicle maker, announced this week its temporarily shutting several of its European manufacturing plants that produce agricultural equipment. 

The company can’t source enough parts to keep assembling new tractors.

And the Association of Equipment Manufacturers said the shortage is industry wide, not only at CNH.

CNH manufacturers Case IH, Steyer, New Holland and IVECO equipment.

CNH says it plans to shut down the facilities for eight days this month. 

The supply chain issues are crippling manufacturers. Scott Wilson of CNH said the situation is “brutal”.

"The team has done a really nice job managing through it. I mean, it's brutal. It's the most difficult supply chain situation I’ve seen," said Wine. 

"I was a supply officer in the Navy before I joined the industrial world. So I've been around much of it in all my life. I've never seen it this bad. But the team's done a nice job of managing through it." 

Cut Blades, senior vice president of Ag Services for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, said "the supply chain issues that are facing the ag equipment market are the same ones that are facing cars, and washing machines and pen balls, and whatever, whatever else that you're trying to buy. Everything is in tight supply.

“It's a recipe for empty (retail) lots out there.“

China’s hog production rebounds, stalls

China’s third-quarter pork production rose to its highest level in three years according to official government data.

Reuters News Agency said the rebound is led by thousands of large breeding farms which built barns in 2020. Hog production was cut in half by outbreaks of African Swine Fever in 2018. 

Pork output for July to September was 12.02 million tonnes, an increase of 43 per cent from the same period last year.

China's pork output jumped 38 per cent in the first three quarters of 2021 versus a year earlier to 39.17 million tonnes, the statistics bureau said.

The third quarter was, however, lower than the 13.46 million tonnes in the second quarter.

Prices have plunged 65 per cent so far this year, prompting some farmers to sell their herds and exit, while others took the opportunity to get rid of less productive sows.

China's sow herd contracted by a half of one per cent in July compared with June, and by another nine-tenths of one per cent in August compared with July.

Canadian pork exports to China also stalled this year, in some cases to nothing.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Olymel president has died

Réjean Nadeau, president and chief executive officer of Olymel, has died of a sudden and virulent cancer. He was 71.

Olymel, owned by Sollio Cooperative Group, is one of Canada’s largest pork and poultry processing companies.

In less than 20 years, Réjean Nadeau spearheaded an expansion that has given Olymel an active presence in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta. 

He has served on several boards of directors and is also involved with many charities. 

Under his leadership, the company has also garnered numerous awards for its products and the originality of its marketing, as well as for its management of human resources. 

In November 2013, Nadeau was inducted into the Association des détaillants en alimentation (ADA) Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement. 

In 2016 he was awarded the Prix Hommage Grand Bâtisseur Desjardins for his entrepreneurial and leadership qualities in the agri-food processing sector.

Just before he died, he sent a note to employees asking them all “to continue on the path of growth, always keeping in mind the values on which the company was founded: integrity, respect and trust. 

"Pay attention to your colleagues, smile, question your attitude and your way of leading, and be open to change: at times it will be technological and will push our business model to evolve; you will see our old face-to-face model become hybrid; at times the path of growth and development will send shockwaves through the organization, and in the end, management will experience a new boom under new leadership. 

“These are all challenges that I know you are capable of meeting, like a tight-knit family," he wrote.





Deere union workers on strike

About 10,000 employees of Deere & Co. went on strike Thursday after rejecting a tentative five-year deal that the company and union representatives negotiated.

The tentative deal covered production and maintenance employees across 14 facilities in the United States, but they voted 90 per cent against accepting it.

The company has about 27,000 employees in Canada and the U.S.

"Pickets have been set up, and our members are organized and ready to hold out and fight for a contract they believe meets their needs," Ron McInroy, director of UAW Region 4, said.

Separately, Deere said it remained committed to reaching a new agreement, adding that it had not yet estimated when it would complete negotiations.

The now-rejected offer would have given five per cent wage hikes for some workers and six per cent for some others. The proposed deal had also called for three per cent raises in 2023 and 2025.

The workers understand that they had to make concessions on some benefits in the past and now they want to get some of it back at a time when Deere is doing "very well financially" and labor shortages persist industry-wide, a source familiar with the talks told Reuters news agency.

Deere had earlier said its operations would continue as normal in Canada and the U.S.

Farmers, meat packers plead for workers

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), Mushrooms Canada and the Canadian Meat Council are pleading with the federal government for more temporary foreign workers.

A new online application form that was supposed to make the process quicker and easier has been down since August with no indication when the federal government will get it up and running again.

Meanwhile meat packers said they are desperately short of workers and want the government to increase the cap on foreign workers from 20 to 30 per cent of their workforce..

“When we talk about unfilled jobs, what we’re talking about is lost opportunity,” said Mary Robinson, CFA president. 

The CFA estimated the agriculture industry lost about $2.9-billion in revenue in 2020 because of low productivity, or about 4.5 per cent of overall sales.

Canadian agriculture has increasingly relied on bringing in workers from overseas to make up for shortfalls in domestic hiring. According to a Statistics Canada analysis from 2020, 27.4 per cent of all workers on crop production in Canada were temporary foreign workers (TFWs)..

Marie-France MacKinnon, vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Meat Council, said her group wants the cap restored to 30 per cent which it was in 2014.

“Our labour shortage is critical right now,” MacKinnon said. “It’s over 4,000 empty butcher stations from across the country.”

Mark Chambers, vice-president Sunterra Farms, a large Alberta pork producer with a packing plant, said his production runs below capacity because of a shortage of workers. He said his pork-processing plant has 120 stations, 20 of which are empty because there is no one to work them.