QUEEN’S PARK — Mike Schreiner released the following statement about the outbreak of COVID-19 cases among seasonal farmworkers:
“My heart goes out to the families of the two men who died and to all the other seasonal workers who are ill from COVID-19. Their health matters just as much as anyone else’s.
Much like the crisis in long-term care, the government was slow to act to keep vulnerable people safe with adequate inspections and safety standards.
This situation should spark an important conversation about the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and whether we can stand behind a two-tier system for workers’ rights.
Seasonal workers play an essential role in putting food on our tables, and I know so many responsible farmers who treat their workers with dignity and respect.
But this doesn’t change the reality that we have one set of protections for domestic workers and another set for seasonal workers.
It is tragic that seasonal workers might sacrifice their health because they fear the consequences of reporting an illness or dangerous work conditions.
They should not be put in risky situations that we would not accept for local workers.
The people who grow our food deserve so much better, and I hope we see urgent and systemic improvements to how we protect seasonal workers.