An organization accuses some farmers of making money on the backs of their foreign workers by charging them a fee for accommodation and meals, which are already reimbursed by the federal.
“They can’t both ask workers to pay for their accommodation and their food and go to reclaim their 1500 $ at the federal level. It is quite unfair. It is as if they were paid twice, ” said Michel Pilon, coordinator of the Network of assistance to women workers and migrant workers agricoles du Québec (RATTMAQ).
In recent days, the organization is said to have received about thirty calls about this and have filed four complaints to the standards Commission, equity, health and safety in the workplace (CNESST), who was not able to provide details to the Log.
“The Guatemalans were made to remove the 60 $ of their pay cheque for their accommodation, but the worst thing is that some have had to pay over $ 200 for their food. It has no good sense, especially for people who earn 700 $ after tax “, said Mr. Pilon.
The UPA denies
This summer, due to the pandemic, the foreign workers who landed the plane should start by making a quarantine paid for 14 days.
In order to help growers to offset these additional costs, Ottawa offers an assistance of $ 1500 per worker, which is used among others to pay for their “accommodation off-site” and ” food or a meal allowance “.
The problem is that Guatemalans and Hondurans are still billed hundreds of dollars of hotel expenses and meals from their pay cheque, has supported the co-ordinator of the RATTMAQ.
Charges that rejects the back of the hand, the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA).
“If the federal government is doing a good job of verification, there will not be abuse. There is no exploitation here, ” replied du tac au tac, its director general, Charles-Félix Ross, stung by the criticism of the organization.
For Fernando Borja, general director of the FIRM, there is help available to pay the remuneration of workers.
“The 1500 $ of the federal will be used to pay the salaries and other expenses, but not accommodation and food,” he said, noting that each farm is bound by contract with its workers.
“It’s disgusting “
Contacted by The Journal, many farmers have not hesitated to condemn their brothers who would be tempted to make money on the backs of their valuable labor.
“If they have to pay the hotel, it’s disgusting “, has dropped Pascal Lecault Gardens Vegibec, at Oka, which employs 224 workers, the majority of them guatemalans.
“For us, they have not paid for anything, the only thing they paid for, it is their cleaning, continued the farmer. They have received two weeks of salary. They were provided accommodation and food. That said, the 1500 $ of the federal government, this is not the panacea. It has already advanced $ 300,000, and it makes a nasty hole. “
The cabinet of the minister of Agriculture of Quebec, André Lamontagne, we invited the workers to denounce any abuses of which they are victims.
“We encourage employees who feel subjected to abuse on the part of their employer to file a complaint with the CNESST,” said her attaché Laurence Voyzelle.
In Ottawa, the minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, has warned through its attaché, Jean-Sébastien Comeau, that the farmers will have to show white paw to be eligible for the grant.
“If they violate those terms, they could be forced to repay part or all of the amount they received in the framework of this program “, has assured the Newspaper.
The assistance Program for the isolation required for temporary foreign workers (PAIOTET) has an envelope of $ 50 million to help employers offset a portion of the costs related to the isolation of 14 days.
Foreign workers in our fields (at this time)
- Guatemalan : 4800
- Mexican : 3533
Source : Farm Quebec
Number of workers foreign agricultural
- In normal times in Quebec : 14 653
- Number of farms in quebec that employ foreign workers : 1259
Source : canadian Council for human resources in agriculture, figures of 2018
Revenues of the agricultural sector
- Quebec : $8.4 billion
- Salary of foreign workers : 13,10 per hour
Source : Union of agricultural producers and Farm Quebec
Eligible expenses under the PAIOTET
- Salaries and benefits
- Hosting off-site
- Food or meal allowance
- Supplies of health and safety
Source : Agriculture and Agri-food Canada