Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Government agencies clarify roles in foreign farmworkers program



Johanne Nadeau, Public Relations  representative with Citizenship and Immigration Canada  (CIC) passed on these comments with regards to agricultural workers in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program:
Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) role is to ensure that each worker is admissible to Canada and that they meet the criteria for a work permit.  Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), however, is primarily responsible for the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the Agricultural Stream under the Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training. For more details, please contact HRSDC (819-994-5559, or media@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca)
In general, though, temporary foreign workers, including agricultural workers, have access to the same recourse mechanisms as Canadian workers when it comes to labour and employment standards.
Provinces and territories have primary responsibility for enforcement of labour standards and have offices that can assist all workers regarding fair pay, hours of work, rest periods and general working conditions. Workers should contact the appropriate authority in the province or territory they work in if they have concerns (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/work/labour-standards.asp).
To complement existing provincial/territorial authorities and their responsibility for labour and employment matters, the Government of Canada adopted new regulations in April that grant more authority for officers to review the actions of employers participating in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. These improvements help us identify non-compliant employers without being overly onerous on the large majority of employers who have the best interests of their employees at heart.
Better oversight will go further to ensure that all TFWs, including agricultural workers, come to Canada to work genuine jobs, and minimize the chance that they will be exploited, mistreated or abused. When wrongdoing is discovered, these changes give the Government of Canada the authority to deny employers the right to hire TFWs, where warranted, and to have them take corrective action.
The Human Resources and Skill Development ministry is also involved in administering the temporary foreign workers program. In response to queries from the Review regarding worker treatment and working conditions, the ministry had this to say:
“The Canada Labour Code applies to federally regulated industries including interprovincial and international transportation, chartered banks, telecommunications, the grain industry, most Crown Corporations, and certain activities undertaken by First Nations.  All other industrial activities fall under provincial jurisdiction.
Part III of the code offers basic labour standards protection for all federally regulated employees, including temporary foreign workers, pertaining to the conditions of work to which every employee is entitled such as, but not limited to, hours of work, minimum wage, vacation, payment of wage, overtime, general holidays, protected leaves and notice of termination and severance pay.
Additional information on federal employment standards is available at the Labour Program website: http://www.rhdcc-hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/labour/employment_standards/publications/index.shtml
Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) have access to the same recourse mechanisms as Canadian citizens and permanent residents under applicable federal/provincial/territorial labour and employment standards, as well as collective agreements.
In most cases, provinces and territories are responsible for the enforcement of labour standards, and have offices to assist workers regarding fair pay, hours of work, rest periods and general working conditions.
TFWs should first contact the appropriate authority in the province or territory they work in if they have concerns about their working conditions.”

In the Similkameen, foreign workers should contact the following provincial ministry with any work related issues or concerns:
British Columbia Ministry of Labour and Citizens’ Services

Employment Standards Branch
Toll free: 1 800 663-3316
Outside British Columbia: (250) 612-4100

Website: www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb