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Manitoba farm workers gain equal status under provincial Employment Standards Code: UFCW Canada leader calls on Ontario to follow Manitoba's lead

WINNIPEG, February 5, 2008 – The Manitoba government's announcement that this June agricultural workers across the province will have the same workplace protections and standards that have covered most other Manitoba workers since 1957, "is very good news and the Manitoba government should be commended," said Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers Canada).

For more than a decade the UFCW Canada union has been an advocate for domestic as well as migrant farm workers, and is soon to begin bargaining a first contract for about 80 migrant workers at a farm in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

Even though Manitoba farm workers have the right to unionize, they have been excluded from the protections of the province's Employment Standards Code. That is about to change, as announced by Manitoba Labour and Immigration Minister Nancy Allan. The extension of the Code to cover agricultural workers includes proper termination notice, vacation pay, days off, work breaks, unpaid leaves, and overtime and statutory holiday pay for workers at indoor factory farms. The extension of the Employer Standards Code will come into effect June 30.

"It's a matter of equality and human rights. All workers including agricultural workers should have a basic right to equal treatment under the labour laws," said Hanley, "and equal standards and protection especially in work that can be so hard and dangerous."

"Manitoba has done the right thing. Ontario should follow its lead."

Workers employed in the Ontario agricultural sector continue to be excluded from coverage under that province's Employment Standards Act. Ontario also excludes farm workers from joining trade unions for the purposes of collective bargaining.

That exclusion is the subject of a UFCW Canada constitutional appeal to be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal starting March 30.
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