CANADA – Jamaican workers taking part in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) are speaking out against the deplorable conditions they claim to face on Canadian farms.
“We are living in a First World country but at both these farms rats are eating our food. We do not have clothes dryers so when it rains we are forced to wear cold, wet clothing to work. We live in crowded rooms and have zero privacy. There are cameras around the houses so it feels like we are in prison,” reads a letter that was reportedly emailed to the Jamaica Observer.
The Jamaican newspaper reports that the SAWP workers claim to work for minimum wage in substandard conditions and also say they are not paid overtime. Workers claim to be exposed to harmful chemicals, threatened and intimidated by their employers, and treated like animals. They continued on to say they are not looking for charity, but for dignity, respect, and fairness.
In response to the Observer’s article, one man said his brother had a similar experience.
Many Say This is Not a New Issue
While others have shared their thoughts, saying that the treatment of international farm workers has been a longstanding problem.
“A tale as old as time. Farm workers have been treated horrifically for decades. When is something going to change?” wrote another person.
“Exploitation of Black foreign workers is, as @policingblack adroitly notes, a longstanding part of the Canadian economy. Lax and indifferent labour code enforcement puts immense abusive power in the hands of unscrupulous employers,” said one person on Twitter.
The SAWP workers also claim to have sent the same letter to Jamaica’s Minister of Labour and Social Security, Karl Samuda. The Brandon Gonez Show reached out to Jamaica’s Minister of Labour and Social Services, as well as Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Trades and Skills Development and did not immediately receive a response.