Union calls for 'sustained collaboration' to address COVID-19 outbreaks in Windsor-Essex farms
Crops soak up the sun at an Essex County, ON farm on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (Ricardo Veneza / CTV Windsor)
WINDSOR, ONT. -- As concern surrounding the spread of COVID-19 within the agri-farm sector mounts, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union is calling for more protection for employees.
On Monday UFCW Canada had an online meeting with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to advocate for better health and safety protections for migrant workers in Windsor and Essex County.
A news release from UFCW Canada issued Tuesday said national representative Santiago Escobar told members of the health unit board that sustained collaboration between governments, employers and unions will be needed to address COVID-19 outbreaks in Windsor area farms.
“Like all workers in Canada, migrant farm workers deserve safe and healthy work environments, humane living conditions, and respect on the job, and every precaution should be taken to protect these workers from contracting the coronavirus,” says Escobar.
According to the WECHU website, to date there have been 939 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among workers in the agri-farm sector including two who have died. There are currently six agricultural facilities experiencing outbreaks in Windsor-Essex.
UFCW Canada said during the meeting it encouraged the health unit to work with unions, governments, and employers to implement measures including:
- Utilize the UFCW/Agriculture Workers Alliance Migrant Workers Support Centre in Leamington as a hub to reach out to migrant farm workers in the area and inform them of their rights at work;
- Close all farms and greenhouses where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred until these facilities have been controlled and proper sanitation has taken place, including in workers' accommodations;
- Workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 should be provided with hotel rooms and nutritious meals and monitored daily by health care professionals while they recover from the virus;
- End overcrowded housing conditions and inspect workers’ accommodations before and during their occupation to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
- Provide health and safety resources and information on COVID-19 in languages that migrant workers understand, as many workers do not speak English;
- Test workers regularly for COVID-19 and ensure that testing facilities are open after standard work hours, which usually end at 8pm for many migrant workers;
- Provide access to paid sick leave for migrant farm workers;
- Ban the practice of housing workers above or adjacent to greenhouses in recognition of the apparent dangers associated with living in buildings that house chemicals, fertilizers, boilers, industrial fans, and/or heaters; and
- Provide access to testing for pesticide exposure and poisoning.
The sixth paragraph has been corrected to UFCW Canada, not OGVG Canada. OGVG was not involved in this meeting and did not make this statement.