Ontario responds to migrant farmworker deaths by exposing more migrants to COVID-19

Toronto, June 24, 2020 - Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is horrified and enraged at the announcement by the Ontario Government to force COVID-19 positive workers to keep working while they are infected. No other change has been announced. Migrant Workers Alliance for Change calls for an immediate reversal of this decision, and stop-work orders to be issued in places with positive cases while guaranteeing full income for workers on the farms which are closed or have infections through 21 paid sick days. The Federal Government must stop the province from proceeding with this directive that jeopardizes public health, and give permanent status to workers so they can refuse unsafe work. A full list of recommendations is available here

“Ontario has responded to three farmworker deaths by signing a death warrant for more migrant workers. COVID-19 positive workers will be forced to keep working as they get sicker, keep infecting others, and more will die,” says Syed Hussan, Executive Director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “We have all seen the photos and videos: people working inches away from each other, workers separated by cardboard partitions, living in trailers without sinks and using porta potties 10 or 20 at a time. Physical distancing is impossible on these farms and everyone knows it.”

“The Premier himself has said employers are not cooperating with testing, and now he wants to give them even more power to force migrant workers to work and get sick. He is prioritizing profit and big business interests over migrant’s ability to protect themselves from illness and death,” says Kit Andres, Migrant Workers Alliance - Niagara. “We call on Ontario to reverse the decision and on the federal government to give workers the power to protect themselves by giving permanent resident status to all migrants now.”

“Would the Premier force his children to work if they tested positive for COVID-19? This is anomalous - the government would never order other people to work after testing positive. This shows a complete disregard of migrant workers’ health and safety and how dehumanized migrants workers are,” says Sonia Aviles, Migrant Workers Alliance - Niagara.

The provincial government’s announcement includes no other new proposals. Testing has already been expanded and yet employers have not adequately responded, while nothing has been done to fix the conditions that produce the spread of illness on farms and the need for testing in the first place. Migrant workers are excluded from many basic employment rights in Ontario and access to income support for positive or sick workers during COVID-19 has been limited. 

Media contacts: 

Kit Andres, 905-324-2840, kit@migrantworkersalliance.org 

Syed Hussan, 416 453 3632, hussan@migrantworkersalliance.org


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