Supreme Court Disappoints Farm Workers
May 6, 2011 Refugee and Immigration Issues
What to make of the recent Supreme Court ruling that prevents agricultural workers from joining unions?
I’ll admit to having no particular expertise in this area so I’ve been reading other’s opinions.
Gordon Sova writing for the Canadian Labour Reporter (http://www.labour reporter.com/ArticleView.aspx?l=1&articleid=10120) reports that the Court found that Ontario’s Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA) is constitutional.
That Act, put in place by the Ernie Eves Conservative government in 2002, gives farm workers the right to join associations but not to bargain collectively as members of trade unions. These associations can appeal to the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal if they have issues.
Looking at this body’s website I see that their mandate is “to provide citizens one place to file their appeals and applications on agricultural issues and have them heard by an impartial and knowledgeable Tribunal.” Further I note that the “Tribunal is part of a regulatory process where decisions made by other bodies can be appealed, and where justice can be rendered after a proper hearing. It is an accessible venue that allows due process to occur.”
This is all very well but looking at the kind of appeals the Tribunal handles it seems to be made up almost entirely of crop insurance, drainage act and regulated marketing matters.
Not quite a body that you would expect to protect worker’s rights.
So the Supremes ruling is that while employees have the right to association that doesn’t necessarily mean an association that has bargaining rights.
Farmers groups claim that collective bargaining could ruin their industry but workers have a different perspective.
Erica Bajer writing today in the Chatham Daily News talked to Mindy Leng. (http://www.chathamdailynews.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3111464)
Ms. Leng was fired from Rol-Land Farms, a mushroom factory in Kingsville in 2003 after she and many co-workers signed union cards.
"The conditions we work in . . . is a horrible environment," Leng told the Daily News. "Our employers do not take care of us or protect us, so that is why we went to a union . . . Right now a lot of farm workers are very very disappointed."
It seems that the way to address this issue is to change the law. Advocates hope to make this an issue in the October provincial election.