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The B.C. government announced it will invest in Okanagan communities to set up safe and healthy campsites for seasonal fruit pickers in the region.
The aim of the funding, said a Government of B.C. press release, is “to better protect workers, employer and community health and safety with respect to COVID-19.”
The province will also require domestic seasonal fruit pickers to complete an online COVID-19 awareness course. The course will give an overview of the employer’s rights and responsibilities and those of workers when it comes to provincial health rules.
The idea, said the press release, is to alleviate stress on employers to reteach the course every time a new employee starts.
“Our government is protecting (seasonal) workers and local residents by making sure workers have a safe place to camp and are educated on the rules and guidelines Dr. Bonnie Henry has put in place here in British Columbia,” said Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham. “The goal is to ensure community safety and this is an important step toward that.”
The online course will cover physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning, safe transportation, and safeguarding community and First Nations health, among other topics. Completion of the course will be mandatory for workers who wish to stay at designated campgrounds.
The Loose Bay campground in Oliver and two other campsites in Creston have been offered financial support to beef up health and safety regulations. According to the press release, $60,000 was given to the District of Okanagan-Similkameen and $112,000 to the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Economic Action Partnership for this purpose.
Further campsites are being explored for similar support in Osoyoos, Summerland, Naramata and the Similkameen.
“Domestic temporary workers are a designated essential service and they are a crucial and appreciated resource in maintaining part of the food supply system,” said the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen chair, Karla Kozakevich. “Providing seasonal accommodations at Loose Bay Campground helps agricultural workers remain safe and available for service.”