Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Farmers couldn’t recruit Canadian workers

Despite massive layoffs when COVID-19 restrictions hit last spring, a survey has found that 41 per cent of Canadian farmers could not recruit enough workers.

It was, in fact, worse than in pre-COVID-19 years.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council said 71 per cent of the farmers could not interest Canadians in applying for the jobs they had available.

They said the CERB money from Ottawa kept workers from applying and a Quebec farmer explained that even when workers did show up, they only worked enough to maintain their CERB support – in other words, less than half a day. And then didn’t come back.

Understanding the Effects of COVID-19 on Canada’s Agriculture Workforce was prepared from a survey of 450 farm businesses the Conference Board of Canada conducted over the fall and winter months.

The survey found that Canadian farmers lost out on earnings worth $2.9 billion – or 4.2 per cent of total sales - because of labour shortages connected to COVID-19.

In addition to labour shortages cited by 41 per cent of farmers, the surveyfound that 86 per cent of  those who reported labour shortages believe that COVID-19 contributed to their shortages.

The shortages were worst for fruit and vegetable growers and beekeepers.

Both sectors depend on temporary foreign workers and thousands either couldn’t get to Canada or were delayed because of COVID-19 protocols.

“Roughly two-thirds of employers who reported temporary foreign worker vacancies because of COVID-19 said Canadian and originating-country travel restrictions prevented them from bringing in workers.

Farmers told the Conference Board of Canada that many Canadian applicants were seeking part-time work.

“This could be related to applicants wanting to maintain low enough working hours to qualify for $500-per-week CERB subsidies.

The Canadians “did not want to work more than 19 hours (so that they could keep their CERB). They did not want to work early in the morning or late at night, and they did not want to work on weekends.” wrote Anne Vern in the CAHRC report.