Troubles with Taxes: Caribbean Seasonal Farmworkers

Did you know there are changes to your contract this year that impact your taxes? According to section 7, by signing the contract you are designating the liaison office to submit and file your tax returns. This means you no longer have a choice to file your own taxes or hire a professional!

There are many issues with giving the liaison office responsibility for taxes, including delayed and misplaced tax returns, lack of access to CRA account, and even theft. This isn’t fair!

What problems have you experienced with the liaison filing your taxes? Let us know so that we can collect evidence and show how big this problem is! Together we can unite and win change to benefit all farmworkers and our families.​

50th Anniversary of Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Workers in Canada

Today marks a somber milestone: the 50th anniversary of the Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) in Canada. Since its inception on June 17, 1974, thousands of Mexican workers have traveled to Canada each year to toil in fields and greenhouses, feeding families and contributing to the Canadian economy.

Leonel Nava, a veteran farm worker from Mexico and a member of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, has been part of this program for 13 years. Nava stresses, “This year’s commemoration of the 50 years of the SAWP, and I repeat it is a commemoration, not a celebration because you cannot celebrate 50 years of injustice and exploitation.”

The Reality of Migrant Farm Work in Canada

Migrant agricultural workers play a crucial role in putting food on Canadian tables, yet they face intense exploitation. These include employer-restricted permits that limit their job mobility and makes it impossible to assert their rights, exclusion from basic labor rights and protections such as maximum hours of work and overtime pay, and substandard living conditions in employer-controlled housing. Often, they are forced to work in unsafe environments, have to deal with hazardous pesticides and heavy machinery without proper training. As a result of these unfair laws, migrant agricultural workers face injuries, abuse, and sometimes even death, with little to no recourse for justice.

Gabriel Camacho, a Mexican farm worker from Tlaxcala—the first Mexican state to join the SAWP—shares his experience: “We have endured a lot of exploitation from the bosses because they have always seen us as machines that don’t get tired, like robots that have no right to protest, they do not care about our feelings and pain of being away from the family.”

A Growing Industry, A Growing Injustice

Despite their essential role, the contributions of migrant workers are often overlooked. In 2022 alone, Canada’s agri-food industry generated a staggering $143.8 billion, making up about 7% of the country’s GDP. 

Yet, migrant workers who are fundamental to this success are systematically excluded from permanent residency programs, including the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot, which leaves them without the basic rights enjoyed by anyone else.

Permanent Resident Status on Arrival

Luisa Ortiz-Garza, a staff organizer with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change adds, “For 50 years Mexican farm workers have sacrificed their lives, their bodies, and their families to grow the Canadian economy but have been excluded from rights and protections that are only accessible through permanent resident status. Today, Mexican farm workers want to remind Canadians that they are humans who deserve equality, fairness and dignity.”

Seasonal agricultural workers return to Canada year after year, often for up to eight months at a time. In 2023 alone, 24,772 workers arrived from Mexico under the SAWP. While they spend a significant portion of their lives in Canada, these workers are still deprived of the rights and security that come with permanent resident status.

The anniversary of Mexico’s entry into the SAWP is not just a moment to reflect on the past, but a critical opportunity to address the systemic issues that have plagued the program for decades. It is a call to action for Canada to prioritize the rights and dignity of all migrant workers. 

Join us to call on the federal government to ensure permanent resident status for all.

Members prayer and action meeting

The federal government promised permanent status for undocumented migrants this Spring, and time is running out! Now more than ever, we need to have faith for a better tomorrow and know that we will keep fighting for each other.

Join the MWAC prayer and action online meeting on Friday, June 14 at 12pm Toronto time to connect with other migrants like you and make moves together toward a better future!

We’re calling for equal rights and a better life for all migrants – will you join us?

Sign up below to get the Zoom link.

Seasonal Farmworkers: Do You Know About Changes to Your Contract?

If you’re a migrant farmworker on the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (8 months contract or less), your contract has changed this year and you have NEW rights!

Some of these changes include:

  • Dryers now mandatory
  • Internet access now mandatory
  • You are now BANNED from filing your own taxes 🤯

Sign up below to join us online on Wednesday, June 19 at 8pm to learn about how these changes affect you and what we can do about it. In this free and confidential information session, we’ll also talk about what you can do if your contract is being breached and what support is available.

Stop the Escarraga family’s deportation!

Sara Escarraga and her four children have lived in Niagara for seven years. They have deep ties in the community but are about to be ripped apart. Unless you act now.

Can you send a message to the Ministers of Immigration and Public Safety urging them to grant status to this family?

Cherry workers, share your story!

Migrant cherry workers in the Okanagan region of BC (Lake Country, Kelowna, Oliver, etc) are reporting that cherry farms have closed, their requests have been cancelled, and Jamaican women are being told there are no placements for female workers. This is unfair!

Are you one of these workers affected by closures? We need to hear from you! Take action now and share your story – fill out the survey below! Everything you share is private and confidential; survey is only complete when you press the red button at the end.

Farmworkers: Check your wages for updates!

Did you know that wages for migrant farmworkers were updated recently? Keep reading to make sure you’re being paid correctly!

How to find your rights on wages

As a migrant farmworker, you have certain rights according to your contract – including wages. Do you know where to look in your contract for information about your wages?

If you’re a seasonal farmworker (8 months contract or less), look at page 4 of your contract under “PAYMENT OF WAGES“. What does it say?

[If you don’t have a copy of your contract with you, tap this link for an online version.]

It says that your boss must pay you weekly wages at a rate that is equal to or above the following rates, whichever rate is highest:

  • The provincial wage for farmworkers according to where you work;
  • The prevailing (or median) wage rate for the type of work you do in the area where you’re employed, as decided by Employment and Social Development Canada (the government department that administers the seasonal farmwork program); OR
  • The wages that your boss is paying other seasonal workers who are doing the same type of work you do.

Often the second option (prevailing or median wage) is the highest, and this rate is updated every year so be sure to check back each season. The most recent update was November 29, 2023. Are you being paid properly? Keep reading to find out!

How to find your wage rate

First, look at your work permit under “ADDITIONAL INFORMATION” and find where it says “OCCUPATION/PROFESSION“. What does it say?

Next, tap this link: jobbank.gc.ca/trend-analysis/search-wages

You should see this:

In the white box, type the occupation that’s listed on your work permit. Press the blue “Search” button.

Then, scroll down to where it says “Hourly wages by community/area“. You will see 3 columns: Low ($/hour), Median ($/hour), and High ($/hour).

Finally, find the region where you’re employed and look under the Median ($/hour) column in the middle. Whatever rate is stated there is your rate of pay according to your contract.

How to report contract violations

Is your boss not paying you correctly? Not sure if your wages are right?

You’re not alone! Message Kit on WhatsApp at 905-324-2840 for support.

United we are stronger! MWAC members party

Are you a member of MWAC? Join us in Toronto on December 10 from 2-5pm to connect with fellow members, share food & laughs, and take action together as we demand permanent status for all!

Treat Farmworkers Fair: TAKE ACTION

[Tap here to sign the petition]

The Minister of Labour in Jamaica, Pearnel Charles Jr., recently promised to open the overseas farmwork program to people with disabilities and create an even larger pool of workers to abuse and exploit. Does that sound fair to you?

Keep reading for 2 simple actions you can take!

1.Watch this video to learn 3 reasons why this promise is not the progressive measure the Ministry claims it to be:

2. Sign the petition below to send a message to Minister Charles – tell him to treat farmworkers fair! We want an end to the unfair practice of blacklisting, which bans farmworkers who get injured or speak up about our rights as humans and workers. Scroll down to sign or tap here to read the full petition.

Because migrants are denied permanent status in Canada, seasonal migrant farmworkers are forced to depend on our bosses to get requested back to the country each year. We are threatened with being banned (blacklisted) from the farmwork program if we speak up about abuse and unsafe conditions.

This unfair practice of blacklisting will end – but only if we take action together today!

We are uniting as migrant farmworkers to call on the Minister of Labour Pearnel Charles Jr. to:

  • Meet with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change farmworker members and listen to workers’ concerns;
  • End the discriminatory practice of blacklisting, as directed by migrant farmworkers;
  • Create an ombuds office at the Ministry of Labour to support farmworkers who have not been requested back by their employer, and to facilitate placement on another farm;
  • Call on the Canadian government to grant permanent resident status to all migrants on arrival, including seasonal farmworkers.

Your personal information will be kept private and confidential, we will never share your name or contact information and will only use it to keep you updated.