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30 Okt 2023

Canada: Advocates condemn repatriation of Jamaican farmworkers who protested labour rights violations; remaining workers allege abuse continues

We are all one nation. We have different skin but we are brothers in our own image and colour. We want the same for everyone. We have to be there for one another. If there is a problem we have to come together and talk about it, and go on a strike. If we are not getting good pay, we can strike out and it can maybe get better.
Caribbean workers in an open letter to the Canadian Government.

On 22nd August 2023 CTV News reported that seven Jamaican migrant workers were sent back to the Caribbean after striking for one day to protest their working and living conditions. Their strike followed a series of videos released in June that revealed the poor conditions the workers experienced on the farm, including flooded rooms. The videos also showed someone threatening the workers, blaming them for the flooded rooms, and informing them that they could not stop working in protest of their poor living conditions.

The Canadian government has opened an investigation to review their dismissal and return.

A later article by the Financial Post details a letter sent by the migrant advocacy group Justice for Migrant Workers on the issue, condemning the repatriation of the migrant worker whistleblowers. The article notes that new migrant workers were brought in on the same day that the protesting workers were returned home, alleging the employer was attempting to suppress workplace resistance. The advocacy group calls for a number of steps to be taken, including ending the tied work permit system, ending unilateral repatriations, and providing permanent status for all current and former migrant workers, among other recommendations.

Radio Jamaica reported on September 15th five of the workers who protests, are to be placed on other farms once the new season begins in January.

We have complained many times about the housing. It is not just one bunkhouse that has problems. One of our bunkhouses had waste water overflowing and going through the bunkhouse, even into the kitchen. Our employer did nothing about it for several days, and even came into our bunkhouse and yelled at us for causing the problem.
Caribbean workers in an open letter to the Canadian Government.

In October 2023, Justice for Migrant Workers released an open letter by workers left on the farm, who allege they are ‘supposed to work like animals’. The workers also allege the ‘tied permit’ is unfair, and that their employer can send them home any time to be replaced by new workers. The workers describe labour rights abuse, including poor living conditions (such as overflowing sewage and bedbugs), a lack of sick leave, restricted access to medicines, and a lack of access to safe drinking water.

A later article by CTV News alleges Justice for Migrant Workers named the employer to be Komienski Farms. The farm did not respond to CTV News' repeated requests for comment.

If we get sick at work, it’s like it doesn’t matter to them. They don’t pay us any sick days and don’t help us if we are sick. They have not given us a health card yet and they have taken away our work permits and employment contracts.
Caribbean workers in an open letter to the Canadian Government.