Challenges faced by Migrant Workers in the Agricultural industry ofCanadaAshley Medeiros5599238SOCI 3P96 The systematicexploitation of migrant workers has been inherent in our community for years asit became embedded into our society and economy. Canada has been known forbringing in more and more workers only on a temporary basis, with fewer rights,limited access to services and no access to federally-funded settlementservices. Migrant workers are typically known to be vulnerable workers sincethere is no systematic monitoring to ensure their rights are protected.
Manyare economically exploited, being subjected to wage theft and their visaconditions often make them dependent on their employers for such things ashousing, access to healthcare and access to basic information about theirrights. Through these disadvantages, migrant workers are limited to certainresources which makes it difficult for them to have a comfortable lifestyle. Throughoutthis paper, I will be addressing issues relating to emigration/immigrationwithin Canada based on inherent exploitation of migrant workers within theagriculture industry with the use of relevant literature. Migrant workersface many challenges associated with current migration patterns which includeabuse, exploitation, poor integration and lack of credible migration policies.
Preibisch(2010) argues the concept of migrants within the agricultural labor market isproblematic since the domestic workforce includes internal migrants fromeconomically disadvantaged regions and socially marginalized groups. Through this, the government has aided withattracting migrant workers over since 1868, to be a part of the agriculturalindustry. An example of this was when the government assisted the settlement ofBritish orphans to work on Canadian farms to benefit capital accumulation(Preibisch, 2010:405). Their recruitmentincluded sources of low skill laborers to be apart of the agricultural industrywhere higher skilled laborers had the benefit of having a likely chance ofpermanent residency and opportunity to apply for citizenship. The programs thegovernment provided included ‘forced rotation’ meaning migrants need to retaintheir eligibility for authorizations and must return their countries at the endof their contracts (Preibisch, 2010:412). In correlation to this, Preibisch(2010) states most migrant farm workers are housed on their employer’s propertyand the loss of work is accompanied with the loss of residence.
Rates of forcedreturn remain low due to the fact that the workers are treated unfairly howeverthe threat of repatriation has become an effective mechanism of control overthe migrant workers (Preibisch 2010:415). Further, Preibisch (2010) claims thework permits the migrants receive are strict and employer-specific in the sensethat they are only legally allowed to work for the person they are assigned to.These programs that are designed for the migrants prevent settlement and do notcontain policies for families or permanent residency. This is problematicbecause migrants are working at low wages and do not have protected rights thatreassure them that they have a chance for residency nor their families do. Dueto the lack of opportunity, migrants are not allowed to apply for citizenshipwhich results in exploitation as they have to settle with employment that theygetting paid low wages without any benefits. Preibisch (2010) demonstratesthree approaches that work towards maximizing profit: (1) appropriation: worksto extract values from others, (2) valorization: enhancing the value of otherswithin industrialization, and (3) intensification: creating value by efforts toadvance (p.406).
These approaches areprevalent within the agricultural industry in Canada to maximize profit whileexploiting their workers at the same time. A 2004 Survey of wage rates paid tonursery and harvesting laborers found foreign workers earning CAD $0.96 perhour less than domestic workers (Preibisch 2010: Statistics Canada 2004:414).Due to wages being lower for migrant workers, the only way for workers toincrease their earnings is by agreeing to working longer hours which includesthe continuation of exploitation.
These housing arrangements provide control toemployers as it affects the worker’s behavior and including the restrictionsfor the workers mobility on the farm. Another policy that contributes todiscriminating and disadvantaging migrant workers is the ability that allowsemployers to choose the nationality and sex of their migrant workers whichresults in various forms of gendered and racialized divisions among the workers(Preibisch 2010). This is an unfair policy as it favours certain races andgenders. The availability of migrant workers has greatly influenced the supplyof labor force as they are an asset in the agricultural industry which providesthe country and government accumulation of profit. Preibisch (2010) illustratesthe various forms of exploitation within the agricultural industry that arereceived from employer’s and the policy programs that disadvantage the migrantworkers but benefit the employers and the country.
Therehave been many problems identified with temporary migration programs, healthcare and the work environment within the agricultural industry in Canada.Preibisch and Otero (2014) argue the importance of citizenship as it affectsworker’s lives in regards to their health in the workplace and their safety.Migrant workers are subjected to coercive forms of labor discipline and lack ofsocial protection, especially low-skilled workers that are associated with poorworking conditions and low wages (Preibisch & Otero, 2014). Farm labourtends to not involve contracts and work schedules on many farms includeinsignificant seasonal variation and hours that are consistent. Further, theirwages vary between an hourly wage or piecework with very few salaried full-timepositions (Preibisch & Otero, 2014). This is problematic for migrantworkers as they do not have secure employment and may only work seasonalpositions with low wages creating issues when finding employment afterwards.Preibisch and Otero (2014) claim that benefits are scarce or nonexistent inBritish Columbia and farmworkers lack overtime pay or do not get paid statutoryholidays and annual vacation. These are forms of exploitation within theagricultural industry in Canada as employers overwork these migrant workers whodo not get paid for the extra work they do.
Further, Agriculture is known to beCanada’s most precarious job sectors and most dangerous as the occupation isinjury prone and have higher serious injury rate than other industries(Preibisch & Otero, 2014:179). To support this claim, Preibisch and Otero(2014) state the workplace consists of many health risks to migrant workers asthe workers are exposed to agrochemicals, soil, insects, sun, climate extremes,hazards posed by machines and confined spaces. These risk factors contribute topresent acute problems and long-term disabilities for migrant workers. In 2008,three workers in at a British Columbia mushroom farm were killed and two wereleft with severe brain damage after being exposed to toxic gas in a composingshed (Preibisch & Otero, 2014:CBC news, 2012). Many migrant workers thatare hired, particularly on the farm, are known to use unsafe vehicles and arecareless, untrained licensed drivers (Preibisch & Otero, 2014). Thesefarmworkers contribute to major traffic accidents that result in death offarmworkers.
Further, another health risk factor is the poor living conditionsof rural housing that supply poor hygiene and sanitary conditions for migrantworkers. All of these risks contribute to work-related health issues amongimmigrant and migrant workers that range from infectious diseases to mentaldiseases. Although migrant workers struggle with addressing their healthconcerns as they have no access to health services and lack legal protectionand health insurance coverage (Preibisch & Otero, 2014:180). Languagebarriers also are a barrier that compromises access to treatment as majority ofthe workers can not speak proper English. Preibisch & Otero (2014)illustrate that farmworkers tend to refrain from using health services or notreport work-related incidents and illnesses to employers to protect theiremployment and immigration status. Because of this, if employers are aware ofthese illnesses and incidents, they will make the workers refrain themselvesfrom working and replace them with other workers which is an issue as theinjured migrant would not be compensated with money. Moreover, Preibisch (2014) further argue that unauthorized status is associated with negativeemployment outcomes.
Without legal status, it is almost inevitable that migrantworkers will be exposed to improper working conditions, exploitation and healthrisks. In contrast, workers with a legal status have a better chance of findingemployment with improved working conditions and access to health care. Theadmission of low-skilled migrant workers channel a large part of irregularmigration that allows them to be exploited and violated. Wickramasekara (2008)addresses wide ranging issues regarding irregular migration flows, migrantrights and development benefits of migration that is inherent in the labourmarket. Today’s immigration policies place barriers on migration forlow-skilled workers in the sense that they receive short-term work for lowwages.
An effect on migration policies is to reduce the poverty impact onmigration due to the fact many low-skilled migrants come from poor families andcountries (Wickramasekara, 2008). Businesses with low-skilled labour attempt tosurvive on cheap labour, avoiding social protection and rely on migrantworkers, essentially exploiting them. Wickramasekara (2008) argues thatirregular migration poses issues for countries and migrant workers themselvesas it creates a protection problem, as migrant workers become vulnerable toviolations of human rights and labour rights. Migrants face these issues whenthey are transported and employed in defiance when it is out of their control.Further, when there are large migrant populations with irregular status, ittends to undermine the credibility of legal migration programmes which latercauses issues for migrants who want to apply for a legal status (Wickamasekara,2008). Many countries fail to realize that many migrants with an irregularstatus also have fundamental rights as human beings and as well as workers butstill face discrimination and workplace issues.
Moreover, these workingindustries view migrants as commodities rather than persons with rights thatare afforded to them through international human rights framework(Wickamasekara, 2008:1258). This has been an extensive problem globally due tothe fact that global governance of international migrations policies do notaddress major issues regarding migrants rights within the labour market orminimising the negative consequences regarding protection of all migrantworkers. Allthree of these articles demonstrate the challenges and problematic issuesmigrants face within the working industry. Each article illustrates the formsof exploitation migrants experience in the working sector that affectsdifferent aspects in their lives. “Does Citizenship Status Matter in Canadian Agriculture”and “Pick-Your-Own-Labour” both address the issues migrant face within theagricultural industry in Canada. Some on the challenges that were explainedwithin both of these articles were the health risks that migrants are exposedto, poor living conditions, low wages, unsafe working conditions and lack ofsecure employment.
An important factor in these working regulations is the rolethe government plays. Policies are created through the government which acquire’forced rotation’ meaning migrants must return to their countries at the end oftheir working contracts. This is problematic for migrants who want to apply fora legal status in Canada but are prevented from doing so due to the workingcontracts and legislations. Further, the agricultural industry exploitsmigrants through low wages and the high risk of health problems within theworking environment.
Migrants are exposed to harmful chemicals and hazardsposed by machinery. Further, migrants live on the employers property where theyare provided low quality housing that is unsanitary that also contributes tothe health risks. Many migrants facemany barriers when it comes to health risks due to the fact that they do nothave health insurance or access to health services. Further, the languagebarrier is a barrier as well as it becomes challenging for them to explaintheir health issues to doctors or others. Although, many migrants do not reporttheir illnesses or workplace incidents due to the fact they are fearful oflosing their jobs. Most migrants are on working contracts and are not fullysecured with employment. These workers are fearful of reporting to theiremployers and eventually losing their job and later being deported.
Themigrants who are employed in Canada are exploited through wages and workinglong hours that they are not being paid extra for. They also are only allowedto work for one employer and that disadvantages them from making a dual incomeconsidering the fact they make very low wages. Similarly, Wickramasekra (2008)illustrates the exploitation within low-skill sectors that disadvantage migrantworkers through global governance ofinternational migrations policies. She argues that they fail to meet theexpectations of migrants based on the fact that migrants are treated ascommodities rather than human beings and workers. Further, Wickramasekra (2008)explains how businesses with low-skilled labour attempt to survive on cheaplabour, avoiding protecting the rights of migrant workers and essentially onlyfocusing on the profit they are receiving rather than the worker’s well-being.This article correlates with “Does Citizenship Status Matter in CanadianAgriculture” and “Pick-Your-Own-Labour” as they all focus on the exploitationmigrants face making it difficult for them to receive citizenship as theyexperience many barriers for being a migrant. Inconclusion, temporary migrant workers tend to be vulnerable to exploitation,especially in the agricultural industry.
It is inevitable that migrant workersare subjected to abuse and exploitation even when having a working visa.Working visas restrict migrants to only working with one employer and nothaving much freedom to choose what type of employment they receive. Migrantscome from all different countries to seek employment and in hopes of having abetter life but end up working in industries that pay them low wages where theyare exposed to harmful working conditions and unsanitary living conditions aswell. Global importance of migration is essential and necessary to sustaineconomic growth and the treatment they receive is unfair. Migrant is alsoimportant for the transfer of skills and provides to knowledge and innovationfor global growth. ReferencesPreibisch, K. (2010), Pick-Your-Own Labor: Migrant Workers andFlexibility in Canadian Agriculture1.
InternationalMigration Review, 44: 404–441. Preibisch, K., & Otero, G. (2014). Does Citizenship StatusMatter in Canadian Agriculture? WorkplaceHealth and Safety for Migrant and Immigrant Laborers. Rural Sociology, 79(2), 174-199.
Wickramasekara, P. (2008). Globalisation, International LabourMigration and the Rights of MigrantWorkers. Third World Quarterly, 29(7), 1247-1264.