Picket in support of Temporary  Migrant Farm Workers

Thursday, 2 December, 9am
99, ave. Viger Ouest (métro Square Victoria)

Come out for a short rally in support of the struggle of temporary migrant farm workers for justice and respect in Quebec!

Two migrant farm workers, Noé Arteaga Santos and Isaias Garcia Castillo, have brought a complaint before Québec’s Commission des relations du travail against Les Serres du St-Laurent Inc, a Quebec company which produces Savoura tomatoes. The company summarily fired and deported Arteaga Santos to Guatemala after he and other workers participated in a work stoppage to draw attention to the plight of a fellow worker who was not receiving the medical treatment he needed. After returning to Canada, he and Garcia Castillo launched the complaint to protest this and other unjust treatment by Savoura. The complaint has gone to arbitration, and the first of two arbitration hearings will take place on 2 December.

In solidarity with all migrant farm workers, we will rally to demand that these workers be re-instated at work and that their other demands for basic justice – such as overtime pay, the cost of the plane ticket to Guatemala, and an apology – be met by Savoura. We also demand that they be given status and we call for the full regularization of all non-status people.

–> Article in Hour, 20 August 2009:
–> Statement by Arteaga, 1 December 2009:

Under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers Programme (TFWP), Quebec agri-businesses increasingly rely on cheap “disposable workers” from Guatemala, Mexico and other countries in Central America and the Caribbean. More than 4000 temporary Guatemalan farm workers are employed in Canada, mostly in Québec.

Canada in fact relies on foreign workers to satisfy different industry and service demands for short-term cheap labour in sectors like seasonal agriculture, live-in care-givers, oil sands construction, and food-processing. But reforms that were brought in last December prevent temporary workers from getting status in Canada by restricting them to working four years in Canada and then barring them from returning to the country for six years. While workers are barred after four years, employers are free to continue to bring workers from different source countries. This entrenches a permanent workforce that is expendable and powerless in exercising workers’ rights – an exploitable underclass of vulnerable workers who live without status and who are deprived of the most basic protections.

In this context, those who dare to speak out against violations or insist on their contract rights, like Arteaga and Castillo, are quickly and brutally dealt with. It is crucial that others in Quebec, who benefit from the fruit of their labour, stand up in solidarity.

The 2009 reforms are part of a larger shift in Canada’s immigration policy towards creating a disposable migrant workforce with few rights. In 2008, for the first time, more people entered the work force through exploitive temporary work programs than those with access to permanent residency. Refugee quotas for 2010 were slashed by 60%, and deportations have doubled in the last decade. The number of permanent residents is decreasing each year. Funding for family reunification programs has been cut, and there is restricted access to citizenship through skilled worker programs for people who respond to a designated 38 occupations. The newly introduced Bill C-49 proposes further reforms that will make it more difficult for refugees to get to Canada and will punish some of those who do make it with mandatory detention and more barriers to status.


Picket endorsed by:
Solidarité sans frontières
Immigrant Workers’ Centre