Migrant and immigrant farm workers in the Lower Mainland habitually face sub-standard working conditions and safety standards, according to a report released yesterday.
The study, Cultivating Farmworker Rights, draws from interviews with 53 immigrant and migrant farm workers, and found that workers are exploited, intimidated and work in “Third World conditions.”
Mark Thompson, co-author of the report, said contractors aren’t obliged to grant statutory holidays or pay overtime, which means most labourers bank below minimum wage.
“We were shocked to see a lack of basic protections for safety and hygiene. They didn’t have bathrooms, water ... or a place to eat.”
Thompson said many workers were afraid to speak out against unsafe working conditions.
“These people, mostly ladies, lack language skills and are very dependent on the farm labour contractors,” he said. “These are not conditions that make you proud to be a British Columbian.”
Adriana Paz, an organizer and advocate with Justicia For Migrant Workers, said many workers said they are treated “like animals” and that “slavery hasn’t ended yet.”
Christina Hanson, co-author of the study, said the province needs to restore basic employment standards to farm workers, which were rolled back in 2002 and 2003.
“The government needs to bring inspections and proactive enforcement back to the farms,” she said.