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Myths and Facts regarding Foreign Worker Programs

Published June 26, 2020

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Misconceptions about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP)

 

Watch or visit https://youtu.be/QEt7lqqc8bw to learn first hand from an international worker talk about his experiences with coming to work on a Canadian farm and the benefits to his family.

 

SAWP and the Agricultural Stream of the TFWP are two programs used by to attract and hire international farm workers. These are longstanding programs that allow international workers to come to Canada for relatively short periods of time. These programs are highly regulated by the federal government, and are further subject to provincial workplace regulations to ensure the workers enjoy the same legal protections as Canadian workers. The programs have slightly different rules, but both have rules that are implemented to protect the rights of employees.

 

  • MYTH: International workers are taking jobs away from Canadians.

    FACT: We always aim to hire locally first. Every position filled by an international farm worker is advertised locally and on the Canada Job Bank.

  • MYTH: Greenhouse workers are paid less than minimum wage.

    FACT: SAWP/TFWP rules and regulations guarantee that international workers are paid minimum wage or better – in greenhouses and all other areas of agriculture. It is the law.

  • MYTH: Greenhouse environments are dirty and unsanitary.

    FACT: Even prior to COVID-19, all greenhouse farms had to adhere to strict food safety rules and sanitation is a key aspect of those rules.  These regulations are also enforced by such organizations as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, that regularly do surprise visits.

  • MYTH: Agricultural workers aren’t treated with respect.

    FACT: Many international workers return to the same farm year after year.  In some cases, multiple generations and/or family members had returned to the same farm.  In many cases relationships are built and friendships are formed.  The Canadian Horticultural Council has compiled a series of videos on YouTube outlining these stories. https://youtu.be/vcHbPJme_iU

  • MYTH: Greenhouse employees are crammed into tiny living environments.

    FACT: Depending on the program, international workers are either provided housing by their employer or are ensured access to affordable housing in the community. All housing is inspected the local Public Health Unit. In addition, housing must also adhere to local fire, building and zoning bylaws.

  • MYTH: After their workday employees are locked in their residences and not allowed to leave.

    FACT: Like Canadians, international workers are free to spend their time outside of work in the ways they choose, including engaging in extracurricular activities like everyone else.  Workers are not confined to their residences.

    The greenhouse sector promotes extracurricular activities and in addition to on-farm amenities, has contributed to the implementation of community centres, social groups as well as festivals. As part of our COVID-19 workplace planning tools, all employees are urged to undertake social distancing even outside of the workplace and especially when they are going into the community.

  • MYTH: Farmers are not monitored and are not punished for non-compliance.

    FACT: Non-compliant employers are fined, placed on probation, or excluded from the SAWP and TFWP programs in the future, if they fail to meet the program’s high standards.

    Penalties for not complying with the new COVID-19 regulations include fines of up to $1 million and bans on using the SAWP and TFWP programs, which can be made permanent.

    In addition, each farm is heavily inspected by the local health unit, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and Service Canada.

    Further, the consulates of the workers’ respective country will at times visit farms to verify the well-being of their nationals.

    Workers are able to contact each of these oversight agencies to flag any non-compliance, and the agencies have a mandate to follow up on such complaints.

  • MYTH: Workers are being barred from testing, and they have no rights.
    FACT: 
    Every worker has a legal job contract signed by them and the employer. This protects the worker, giving them all the same human rights and protections as Canadian workers, including Employment Insurance, and WSIB.

     

    This also gives workers the right to decide if they wish to be tested.  They cannot be barred or forced to be tested.  It is their right to volunteer to do so.

     

    International workers that test positive for COVID-19 and are isolated and have access to wage coverage through WSIB benefits, just like Canadian workers.

  • MYTH: Greenhouse environments have employees working right next to each other.

    FACT: There are over 3,200 acres of vegetable greenhouses across Ontario. With an average of three employees per acre, social distancing is easy in the greenhouse.

     

    In areas where closer contact may be inevitable, physical barriers and increased sanitation and PPE have been implemented as prevention measures. This is in addition to operational changes such as staggered shifts, having employees work in small teams, and amenity scheduling.

  • MYTH: They do not have access to healthcare.

    FACT: All workers have the same access to health care as you or I under either public or private insurance. SAWP workers are covered by provincial coverage (e.g. OHIP in Ontario) upon arrival in Canada.  For the remaining TFWP workers, where there is typically a waiting period before OHIP coverage kicks in, employers are responsible for purchasing private coverage for the worker equivalent to provincial coverage. This waiting period has been temporarily waived to ensure workers are covered against the risks of COVID-19 upon arrival.

  • MYTH: Employees arrived with COVID-19.

    FACT: Upon arrival to Canada all greenhouse employees were required to self-isolate for 14 days.  To date all on-farm COVID-19 outbreaks have been a result of community spread, meaning it was brought into the farm from community contacts.   

  • MYTH: International employees work as slaves and only contribute to the pockets of the farm owner.

    FACT: In addition to contributing to their local economy, over $300 million of saved earnings are sent home by employees every year, over eleven times Canada’s annual aid budget to developing regions like Mexico and the Caribbean. Seasonal jobs provide workers the opportunity to send their kids to good schools, buy medication, buy a home, and start their own family business. https://youtu.be/F3YxnKQT4KU

     

    In some cases, monies saved have been used to build schools and churches. https://youtu.be/v-h8CcBru2Y

     

  • MYTH: International employees are not allowed to immigrate to Canada permanently.

    FACT: Immigration rules are set by the government. Not by farmers. That said, we are fully supportive of any pathway of immigration for workers choose to pursue that.  International greenhouse workers have access to both the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program and recently announced Agri-Food immigration Pilot. https://youtu.be/gM2t2ApYwZU

     

  • MYTH: Employees are tied to a single employer and have no ability to change.

    FACT: Workers in the SAWP program have long been able to move to another employer. There is a long-standing transfer mechanism.

     

    In addition, the federal government has introduced Open Work Permits for Victims of Abuse which empowers workers in the rest of the TFWP to leave their employer in any abusive situation.

     

    Transfers must be done in orderly ways like the above examples to ensure international workers don’t end up taking a job that a Canadian was willing to do.

 

  • MYTH: Workers have no access to COVID-19 related information. 

    FACT: Employers relay all COVID-19 related information to their employees as soon as they receive it.  In addition, the sector has a mobile application called Hub-Connect, which is used as an informational resource to the foreign worker community. This free application is available on Apple and  Android platforms, and contains valuable information regarding Health and Safety, including COVID-19, in English and Spanish.

  • MYTH: Employees have no ability to complain about employers.

    FACT: The Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario and the consulates of the workers’ countries all have  a combination of online, email and phone avenues for workers to report abuse or misuse for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. In addition, specific guidance has been provided to report employers who are not respecting COVID-19 guidelines. 

 



Previous Press Releases

 

 


For further information in regards to OGVG's response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and a detailed collection of resources, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 page at https://bio.ogvg.com/

 

  Related Articles and Links


Greenhouse Sector embraces new provincial action plan to Stop COVID-19 Outbreaks in Windsor-Essex

Published June 26, 2020

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For further information in regards to OGVG's response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and a detailed collection of resources, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 page at https://bio.ogvg.com/ 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 24, 2020

 

Greenhouse Sector embraces new provincial action plan to Stop COVID-19 Outbreaks in Windsor-Essex

 

 

LEAMINGTON, ON – Today’s announcement of a provincial action plan to stop COVID-19 outbreaks in Windsor-Essex is a critical next step in building a robust infection mitigation and management structure in the region.

 

Today’s announcement included three measures:

1. Ongoing and expanded on-site testing

2. Access to employment benefits and supports

3. New public health guidance

 

These measures build on regional efforts to ensure that the sector can continue to deliver a trusted testing system for all agri-food employees, with a mix of on-farm and assessment center protocols to all farm employees.

 

OGVG and its partners have been making progress with enhanced testing. As of mid-day today, we estimate that nearly 23% of greenhouse vegetable acreage in Essex county has undergone testing, with another 39% committed for the upcoming days. This is in addition to testing that has occurred in the other sub-sectors of agriculture in the region.

 

The clarity for employees and employers regarding support for those impacted by positive tests is a crucial step in enhancing trust among agri-food employees and ensuring their well-being will be taken care of.

 

Similarly, the expanded on-site testing will bring additional testing capacity to the region in a way that further builds trust and confidence across the agri-food sector and in the community. We understand the frustration felt by the communities of Kingsville and Leamington and we assure you that we are taking all steps to ensure we can move forward into Phase two as quickly as possible.

 

Finally, the updated public health guidance will bring greater clarity as to the best management protocols for case management in the agri-food sector to ensure both public health and food supply objectives are met.

 

OGVG and its partners are also working to step up the compliance and enforcement capacity within the region to address contraventions and to develop enhanced requirements for contract employees and the agencies that manage them.

 

Quotes:

 

“We are grateful for the ongoing support from the provincial government in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Together with our municipal, health and community partners we continue to put the health, safety and well-being of our workers, farm families and our community at the core of everything we do”. Mr. Joseph Sbrocchi, General Manager, OGVG.

- 30 -

 

 


About OGVG

The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) represents approximately 200 farmers responsible for over 3,200 acres of fresh, nutritious, greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers across the province. With farmgate sales of $950 million in 2018, support for over 13,000 jobs, a contribution of $1.8 billion to the economy and a consistent track record of growth, the sector is a valuable economic driver for the province.

 

For an overview of OGVG’s COVID-19 initiatives see the following link.

 

For Media Inquiries, Contact: Mr. Joseph Sbrocchi,
General Manager

Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers

32 Seneca Road, Leamington, Ontario N8H 5H7

T 519-326-2604 or 1-800-265-6926

Email: j.sbrocchi@ontariogreenhouse.com

Website: www.ogvg.com

Dr. Justine Taylor, Science & GR Manager

Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers

32 Seneca Road, Leamington, Ontario
N8H 5H7

T 519-564-4496 or 1-800-265-6926

Email: jtaylor@ontariogreenhouse.com

Website: www.ogvg.com

 
 

Previous Press Releases

 

 


For further information in regards to OGVG's response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and a detailed collection of resources, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 page at https://bio.ogvg.com/


Latest OGVG Press Release Regarding COVID-19 and the Embrace of the Provincial Action Plan

Published June 24, 2020

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
 

For further information in regards to OGVG's response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and a detailed collection of resources, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 page at https://bio.ogvg.com/ 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 24, 2020

 

Greenhouse Sector embraces new provincial action plan to Stop COVID-19 Outbreaks in Windsor-Essex

 

 

LEAMINGTON, ON – Today’s announcement of a provincial action plan to stop COVID-19 outbreaks in Windsor-Essex is a critical next step in building a robust infection mitigation and management structure in the region.

 

Today’s announcement included three measures:

1. Ongoing and expanded on-site testing

2. Access to employment benefits and supports

3. New public health guidance

 

These measures build on regional efforts to ensure that the sector can continue to deliver a trusted testing system for all agri-food employees, with a mix of on-farm and assessment center protocols to all farm employees.

 

OGVG and its partners have been making progress with enhanced testing. As of mid-day today, we estimate that nearly 23% of greenhouse vegetable acreage in Essex county has undergone testing, with another 39% committed for the upcoming days. This is in addition to testing that has occurred in the other sub-sectors of agriculture in the region.

 

The clarity for employees and employers regarding support for those impacted by positive tests is a crucial step in enhancing trust among agri-food employees and ensuring their well-being will be taken care of.

 

Similarly, the expanded on-site testing will bring additional testing capacity to the region in a way that further builds trust and confidence across the agri-food sector and in the community. We understand the frustration felt by the communities of Kingsville and Leamington and we assure you that we are taking all steps to ensure we can move forward into Phase two as quickly as possible.

 

Finally, the updated public health guidance will bring greater clarity as to the best management protocols for case management in the agri-food sector to ensure both public health and food supply objectives are met.

 

OGVG and its partners are also working to step up the compliance and enforcement capacity within the region to address contraventions and to develop enhanced requirements for contract employees and the agencies that manage them.

 

Quotes:

 

“We are grateful for the ongoing support from the provincial government in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Together with our municipal, health and community partners we continue to put the health, safety and well-being of our workers, farm families and our community at the core of everything we do”. Mr. Joseph Sbrocchi, General Manager, OGVG.

- 30 -

 

 


About OGVG

The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) represents approximately 200 farmers responsible for over 3,200 acres of fresh, nutritious, greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers across the province. With farmgate sales of $950 million in 2018, support for over 13,000 jobs, a contribution of $1.8 billion to the economy and a consistent track record of growth, the sector is a valuable economic driver for the province.

 

For an overview of OGVG’s COVID-19 initiatives see the following link.

 

For Media Inquiries, Contact: Mr. Joseph Sbrocchi,
General Manager

Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers

32 Seneca Road, Leamington, Ontario N8H 5H7

T 519-326-2604 or 1-800-265-6926

Email: j.sbrocchi@ontariogreenhouse.com

Website: www.ogvg.com

Dr. Justine Taylor, Science & GR Manager

Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers

32 Seneca Road, Leamington, Ontario
N8H 5H7

T 519-564-4496 or 1-800-265-6926

Email: jtaylor@ontariogreenhouse.com

Website: www.ogvg.com

 
 

Previous Press Releases

 

 


For further information in regards to OGVG's response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and a detailed collection of resources, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 page at https://bio.ogvg.com/