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Canada: Activists & workers allege Jamaican Govt. report on migrant working conditions does not capture abuse

A report released in April 2022 by the Jamaican Government analysed working and living conditions for migrant farm workers in Canada. It found that there was no evidence of conditions ‘similar to systematic slavery’. The report looked at migrant working conditions across five themes:

  • Living conditions
  • Effectiveness and reliability with the liaison service
  • Relationship between farm workers and farm owners
  • Terms and conditions of their employment
  • The benefits of the farm workers program to themselves and their families.

Following the publication of the report, however, activists alleged that it failed to capture abuse due to a lack of migrant worker voices. The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change argued that the report only covered a single survey completed by 400 workers, suggesting this was not enough to uncover exploitation.

On June 2nd, the Jamaican Observer published an article describing interviews with workers from a farm in Ontario, where the workers alleged they were subject to a number of labour rights abuses, including:

  • Poor living conditions, including flooded accommodation and a lack of access to clean drinking water.
  • A lack of privacy due to the accommodation’s open-plan layout and overcrowded space.
  • Intimidation on part of the employer, including the threat of deportation if complaints are raised.
  • Poor working conditions and occupational health & safety concerns due to eight-hour days in 32 degrees Celsius, with limited water breaks.

The workers claimed their location was not visited during the Jamaican Government’s initial investigation for the report.

Following the allegations reported by the Jamaican Observer, Jamaica’s Ministry of Labour and Social Security ordered an investigation into the work and living conditions on the farm.

Further criticism of the report emerged on 5th June on Radio Jamaica's weekly news review programme, That's a Wrap, by President of the Union of Clerical Administrative and Supervisory Employees, Vincent Morrison, and Public commentator Judith Wedderburn, who both suggested the report did not accurately capture labour rights abuse of migrant workers in Canadian farms.