Am I entitled to a tax refund? Am I eligible for parental benefit? How many weeks of vacation can I request? What should I do if my housing conditions are not acceptable? As of September 20, temporary foreign agricultural workers will have access to a 1-800 line as well as a WhatsApp number to answer all their questions.
This referral service was set up by the Federation of the Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) of Montérégie. This project is funded by the Government of Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
In fact, the Fédération de l’UPA de la Montérégie was already in high demand to answer workers’ questions, even before the health crisis. It must be said that, through its employment center as well as its accounting and tax services offered to producers and workers, the organization is a point of reference for these newcomers. “At the UPA de la Montérégie, we do almost all the tax reports for temporary foreign workers in Quebec, around 16,000 per year”, illustrates Julie Tremblay, director of the employment center of the federation.
And, since the organization’s staff are fluent in both French and Spanish, it’s no surprise that many turn to them for answers to their questions. “ We receive a lot of questions related to taxation, but also to parental benefits, to labor standards or even if they are in conflict with their employer. So we immediately received calls which, at the start, were not necessarily intended for us. »
With the pandemic, the type of question has diversified, covering topics such as quarantine and vaccination. The volume of calls has also increased. “Several assistance programs have been added and government communications are done in French and English,” says Julie Tremblay. As a result, temporary foreign workers, who speak mostly Spanish, do not find answers to their questions. »
Hence the idea of creating a 1-800 number to help workers find their way around.
In addition to responding directly to questions relating to taxation, the federation has also developed partnerships with various collaborators, such as consulates, organizations for the defense of workers’ rights as well as various groups in close contact with this type of clientele. “I make sure to have constant communication with the various organizations,” says the director. This allows us to be sure that if there are any issues or an emergency, we can communicate directly with someone there. We therefore know to whom to recommend the workers in each organization. In short, it is a work of consultation, she adds.
A resource to share
To publicize this new service, the federation will also launch an advertising campaign, in Spanish and French, through its network. In doing so, the organization hopes to reach both temporary agricultural workers and their employers. In addition to preparing a pamphlet presenting the reference line, the organization will also make this new resource known to the other UPA federations in the different regions of Quebec. In addition, information will also be shared with organizations working with temporary foreign workers in the agricultural sector. The number will also be published on the Facebook groups intended for this clientele.
Ultimately, the organization estimates that it will be able to respond to 1,800 calls by the end of the project, scheduled for December 15. A service that could be maintained after the pandemic, however, thinks Julie Tremblay. “The number of foreign workers is constantly increasing, which inflates demand. And I don’t think the government will ever offer services in Spanish. Such a resource, which therefore makes it possible to bridge the gap between these workers and the services to which they are entitled, could therefore be useful, regardless of the context.
Reference line for temporary agricultural workers
1-888-454-3998 (by phone)
514-235-2765 (via WhatsApp app)