Advocates for migrant workers sounding alarm after COVID-19 death
Published Monday, June 1, 2020 4:41PM EDT Last Updated Monday, June 1, 2020 6:28PM EDT
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Advocates of temporary foreign farm workers are sounding the alarm once again over what they say is a lack of oversight.
A crisis within a crisis is how Santiago Escobar of the United Food and Commercial Workers union describes the recent death of a migrant worker in Essex County.
“At the UFCW we are very touched and concerned to learn a migrant worker from Leamington has died due to COVID-19,” says Escobar.
On Monday morning the health unit announced the worker, who came to Canada from Mexico in February, had become the youngest person to die due to the virus in our region.
The national representative of the UFCW says this proves their calls for action have been falling on deaf ears.
“This also shows that agricultural workers need to have representation, have an advocate and be able to join a union,” says Santiago.
Escobar believes migrant workers continue to live in overcrowded and inadequate living conditions, telling CTV News there should be no more than four workers living together at the same time and that each should have their own bedroom.
Escobar adds worker quotas should be abolished and physical distancing always be enforced while working.
“Provide protective gear, masks, gloves and hopefully make available medical personnel to check workers on a regular basis directly in their facility,” says Santiago.
Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says the worker did not have any previous health issues and was self-isolating in a hotel before being rushed to hospital where he later died.
Ahmed won’t disclose the workers name, or which farm he was working on, only that the deceased was in his 30s.
“Doesn’t really matter where these farms are, it’s a loss of life and we should be respecting everyone’s privacy and the next of kin is not here so the farm will be working with the consulate to share that information with the families and do what is needed,” says Ahmed.
Of the 970 confirmed cases of covid-19 locally, 175 (or about 18 per cent) have been among farm workers from 17 different farms. The health unit says these numbers include both migrant workers and community workers.
“They may not necessarily follow all the recommendations and advices we are providing them so we do our best to do that translation, to do that interpreter services to make sure we are culturally appropriate in terms of how we are connecting with them,” says Ahmed.