From the Winnipeg Free Press:
The well-being of Manitoba's seasonal workers is almost entirely at the whim of their employer. Most earn minimum wage. Despite the long hours there is no overtime pay. Part of the cost of their travel to Canada is deducted from their pay cheques.
The workers pay Employment Insurance and taxes, but are denied access to EI benefits, health care and the other benefits their income taxes help support. Seasonal workers are not covered by Manitoba Health Insurance.
Although some workers have spent the majority of their working life contributing to the Canadian economy -- up to 25 years in some cases -- they are not allowed to become permanent residents or citizens. At any time they may be sent home, if they are injured, the employer determines there is not enough work, or if they talk to a union organizer. Nonetheless, two years ago a group of seasonal workers managed to join a union.Recent media reports state that workers at Mayfair Farms in Portage La Prairie chose to decertify after the long struggle to unionize. What those reports don't talk about is the threats that workers received when they expressed interest in unionizing. At least one strong union supporter was denied return to Mayfair Farms this year.
The day before the decertification vote the Mexican consul -- which has a vested interest in keeping workers in Canada, as their remittances are a major source of national income -- held a closed-door meeting with workers at Mayfair Farms. Early this summer the Mexican consul visited all farms with seasonal agricultural workers in Manitoba letting workers know that should they unionize they would be blacklisted.