‘The labour movement needs to be an even stronger voice in calling for better working conditions for these workers who put food on our tables’
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is calling for better protection for migrant workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic which, it said, “has shown us how vulnerable these workers are and how little governments have done to protect them”.
The union noted that one of the great tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic is how it has spread through migrant workers who have come to Ontario to do temporary, seasonal jobs on farms and in greenhouses.
Each year, nearly 20,000 migrant workers come to Ontario, and 8,000 have arrived this year. Among them, only 750 have been tested. Media reports indicate that some 470 farm workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Windsor-Essex region alone, and three of them have died.
“Migrant workers have few rights and don't have the benefits like paid sick leave that come from being in a strong union,” said the union.
OPSEU has also been working with the group Justicia for Migrant Workers for years to try to educate Ontarians about the working conditions of migrant workers, said the union.
“This pandemic has shown us how vulnerable these workers are and how little governments have done to protect them. The labour movement needs to be an even stronger voice in calling for better working conditions for these workers who put food on our tables,” said the union. “We at OPSEU stand in solidarity with migrant workers and say it's time they started to get the benefits and rights the rest of us take for granted.”
Fear of discrimination
Meanwhile, 64 per cent of them fear rising discrimination amid the pandemic, according to a report from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship–Leger.
Among them, 27 per cent are worried about wearing a mask in public (vs. 21 per cent of the general public). Nearly half (49 per cent) are worried about going out to run errands (vs. 34 per cent of the general public) and more than half (53 per cent) are worried about going out in public (vs. 35 per cent of the general public).
Another 63 per cent are worried about taking public transit (vs. 47 per cent of the general public), found the survey of 2,471 respondents — including 956 new Canadians — between April 27 and 30, 2020. Among Chinese-Canadian new citizens, a full 81 per cent fear discrimination while taking transit.
“We need to #StandTogether with Canadians who are feeling left out and who have been bearing a disproportionate impact of the pandemic,” says Yasir Naqvi, CEO of the institute. “All Canadians need to do the hard work to counter racism. That's why we're collecting the data to create that awareness, and to mobilize people.”
Recently, both Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Trudeau called for better protection of migrant workers in the Windsor-Essex region as COVID-19 cases soar, according to a recent report from The Canadian Press.