Friday, June 19, 2020

The pandemic might finally improve living conditions for migrant workers

A few good things might ultimately come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of them might be changes to the conditions suffered by migrant workers in Canada.
The Liberal government has pledged that it will establish national standards on living conditions that would need to be met for farmers to qualify for the temporary foreign worker program, something that should have been done decades ago. About 25,000 migrant farm workers come into Canada each spring under the program, mainly from Jamaica, Mexico and Guatemala, with about two-thirds of them employed in Ontario. The poor conditions they live and work in have been well known for some time (although obviously some employers are worse than others).
The announcement comes after a bunch of coronavirus outbreaks among migrant workers has threatened our food supply, and highlighted the overcrowded accommodation they have to endure, as well as undue pressure to keep working when sick, lack of official sick days, non-existent government monitoring, and poor facilities (including personal protective equipment).
Two Mexican migrant farm workers have died, and some 600 more are now infected with the virus. Mexico has put a hold on more Mexicans coming to Canada under the program until conditions are improved, a move that has probably forced Canada to sit up and pay attention to the problem.
It's just an announcement right now, but here's hoping that this is one of the pledges the Liberals actually follow through with.

After a third Mexican agriculture worker died in Ontario, Mexico actually removed its hold on Mexicans travelling to Canada for work, after securing more protections and health-and-safety inspections for its workers. This might not seem very logical at first blush, until you also realize that Mexico's own COVID situation is even worse, with the seventh highest death rate in the world, and is now all but out of hand.

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