Many migrant farm workers in Manitoba are working directly in the path of the floodwaters in Manitoba, and have had their livelihoods harmed by the flood as much as any other resident of the area. Since the money these workers make goes home to their economically-depressed countries of origin to help support their families, the flood probably has a greater negative impact on these workers than on the average Canadian.
The Winnipeg Free Press recently ran an article on the impact of the flood on migrant workers in the province; Jennifer deGroot, a member of the Migrant Worker Solidarity Network, had her letter to the editor published as Letter of the Day in the Winnipeg Free Press about the challenges these workers face in Canada and the need for them to be covered by any provincial flood compensation scheme. You can find the text of the letter below.
Carol Sanders’ May 18 article, Vegetable pickers might not have to go home, highlights the precarious position of seasonal migrant farm workers in Manitoba, particularly those in the flood zone.
Many Manitobans are unaware that 400-500 workers come from Mexico to Manitoba each growing season to perform demanding physical labour that provides us with vegetables for our tables. Some of these workers have been returning to Manitoba for more than 20 years. Despite their contribution to society, they do not have the option of becoming permanent residents or citizens.
They are also denied provincial health-care coverage. Unlike Saskatchewan and Ontario, the Manitoba government refuses to provide these workers access to health-care coverage. Instead, the workers must rely on the whims of a private insurance provider for their health needs.
The contracts that these workers signed when they came to Canada guarantee them 40 hours of work per week. However, the current flooding has left migrant farm workers uncertain about their income. The Manitoba government has assured farm operators of compensation, giving them hope that they may be able to continue their business tomorrow.
We hope that the compensation packages will not overlook the most vulnerable victims of the 2011 flood and will ensure that migrant farm workers receive compensation for any wages lost so they can continue to provide for their young families at home.
Migrant Workers Solidarity Network