Cash crop

The BC Agriculture Council applied to strip migrant farm workers of the labour rights enjoyed by Canadian workers while Steve Thomson, British Columbia's new agriculture and lands minister, was its executive director. In a submission made to the Labour Relations Board on September 29, 2008, the council and the Western Agriculture Labour Initiative, said the province's Labour Relations Code can't constitutionally apply to foreign nationals working in British Columbia under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program - preventing them from unionizing.

The reason: under that federal government program, Canada has negotiated employments terms and conditions for those workers with their home countries. And those federally-negotiated terms and conditions take precedence over any provincial law.

Last month, through his communications staff, Minister Thomson declined to say whether he he personally thinks the code shouldn't apply to migrant farmer workers because the case was still being heard by the board. When he was still with the council, though, the future minister told The Vancouver Sun's Brian Morton its submission wouldn't lower employment conditions for those workers.

"In our view, issues need to be addressed through country-to-country agreements, agreements based on proper working conditions, wage rates, housing standards and inspections," he said. "There's a question as to whether this program fits under the labour program and whether foreign nationals can or cannot be unionized."

But, in a decision handed down late Monday, board vice-chair Ken Saunders disagreed with the council's constitutional arguments.

1 Comment

Hey folks. If the province keeps trying to do an end run on BC safety standards by claimed the workers are federal employees, it will be time to call in Labour canada safety folks. Their big office is right there across the street from the main post office in Vancouver and are just as strong on the subject as the BC folks. They have no qualms writing compliance orders and their fines can really bite. Workers lives are not something that people should be playing with. Shame of Gordo's crew

Leave a comment

Copyright © 2004 - Public Eye Mediaworks. Reproductions of any portion of this Website are permitted only with the expressed permission of Public Eye Mediaworks.
Canadian Web Hosting graciously provided by dotcanuck Web Services. Layout and graphics courtesy of Art Department Design.