Bonduelle plan for on-site migrant housing sparks concern
Published Wednesday, January 14, 2015 11:55AM EST
Tecumseh's Bonduelle plant is looking to add to its workforce by increasing the number of Jamaican migrant workers and creating on-site housing.
The plant was badly damaged by fire last July, but the company has since rebuilt.
While the community has celebrated Bonduelle's commitment to the area, on Tuesday night many residents spoke about concerns they have with this plan.
The proposed plan asks the town to rezone industrial land to allow for housing of seasonal migrant workers.
"We need to make sure that we can hire and retain people for these key roles," saysBonduelle's John Landschoot.
Landschoot made a pitch to Tecumseh town council about why the company needs to hire more migrant workers and why it would like to house them on the current site.
"If we had the local applicants and the local people to work the facility, we would not be here today," says Landschoot.
In 2014, Bonduelle hired 11 migrant workers. It wants to increase that number to 42 by this summer and 60 by 2016.
But a number of delegates came forward with concerns.
Some issues caught the attention of Chris Ramsaroop, from Justice for Migrant Workers and Adrian Monrose, a former migrant worker at double diamond acres in Kingsville, who won a human rights tribunal after he says he was fired for standing up for himself.
“The current framework for housing does not protect migrant workers,” says Ramsaroop. “We want to see larger changes and we also don't want to see them segregated in the confinements of an industrial property. They should be living in the community and their rights should be protected."
Bonduelle says each room would accommodate four workers.
Residents shared other concerns. Some were worried they would lose property value.
“We have to ensure that people don't attack or go to racial stereotypes,” says Ramsaroop. “With decreasing property values, threats to crime, this is not the conversation we need to have."
Tecumseh mayor Gary McNamara says there will be more meetings.
“There is genuine concern, “ says McNamara. “I think an open house would make more sense than a public meeting itself."
No date has been set for that next meeting, but McNamara says it will be in the next 15 to 30 days, since Bonduelle wants the facility converted in time for the company's peak summer months.