Farm Forum Part II

Farm Forum Part II

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(This is part 2 of a series on farm labour discord as addressed at a recent forum at the Oliver Elks hall.)
Numerous recommendations were made to help solve some of the problems that seasonal farm workers and their employers are having in Oliver and Osoyoos every summer.
Five discussion groups focused on the following topics (with recommendations under each): cross-cultural education, accommodation, transportation, safety and security, and remuneration and labour.

Cross-cultural education
– Gather all concerned at the beginning of the season to help break down stereotypes, share ideas, build relationships, develop respect and
understanding, and celebrate diversity
– Provide important information in the languages spoken in the area during the season, for example, English, French, Punjabi, and Spanish, and provide translation services and language instructions
– Organize advocacy and outreach activities, and promote good employers and employees
– Develop positive peer pressure among farmers, workers and communities
– Educate farmers, workers and communities on issues and how to communicate
– Have media more involved in dialogue and education process as well as create farmers and workers profile
– Organize community events to bring these partners together

Accommodation
– Define standards, regulations, enforcement, fines and random inspections
– Start with creating a hub location/work camp with all resources and amenities (convenience store, laundromat, showers, toilets, kitchen
and information/advocacy office)
– Improve on Loose Bay location
– Make sure workers have drinking water available

Transportation
– Safe, legal, not overcrowded
– Get to know farmers and their needs – shuttle service
– See if there is interest for a private business that would provide local transit

Safety and security
– Open advocacy and liaison office – create a plan and budget and prepare to obtain funding from all possible resources
– Lobby all levels of government for better regulations and funding
– Liaison contact information for each community
– Establish “farm phone line” on the same principle as Crime Stoppers
– Include WorkSafe BC, WorkBC and Interior Health in follow-up and random inspections

Remuneration and labour
– If there were a centralized farm labour office in each community it would be easier to sort the “bad apples” out
– Develop multi-copy time sheets for farmer,
worker and the office
– Labour laws need to be adjusted/revised
– Develop education plan to overcome
language and cultural barrier
– Require better monitoring of SAWP/TFWP by federal and provincial authorities
– Design a basic template for contracts stating rights, benefits, maximum work hours per day/week, holidays, pay periods, safety measures, rate of pay
– Identify the claims and complaints process
– Create a “win-win” situation for all stakeholders
– Involve high school students in education about community programs involving farmers and farm workers
– Initiate a “fair trade” certification program and awards for ethical growers
– Farm worker newsletter
– Keep local media more involved
– Develop funded advocacy to facilitate relationship between communities, farmers and workers
– Stop cash payments for work to avoid lack of proof and potential conflict

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