Reaching temporary foreign workers, especially in agriculture, can be quite a challenge. Organizations that work with them compete in ingenuity to succeed in establishing contact with them, in order to offer them the support they need.
We present the projects of three organizations that have succeeded in creating links with temporary foreign workers. All projects were funded by the Government of Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and coordinated by Immigrant Quebec. The projects have been rolled out in two phases, the last of which will end on December 15, 2021.
At the start of the project, the Laurentides Employment Integration Center (CIE) sent an email to some fifty farm owners, with the aim of creating a first bridge with them and informing them of the existence of the Help Center trilingual language set up by the organization to support temporary foreign workers during the pandemic.
However, faced with the few requests generated by this mailing, the team decided to change strategy, going directly to the farms – generally without an appointment. Several times during the summer, the workers also set up shop in the parking lots of about fifteen grocery stores frequented by temporary foreign workers to meet them. Thanks to the UPA, the organization also had a few soccer balls to distribute, which facilitated this first contact.
The team also went at 5:30 a.m. to set up its kiosk at the Saint-Eustache flea market, a place very popular with temporary foreign workers. Two people from CIE Laurentides were on hand to answer questions, distribute a brochure presenting the services provided by the organization and exchange contact information with them. They then contacted them to respond to their various requests.
The team even went so far as to train supervisors directly in certain agricultural establishments to teach them a few key phrases in Spanish. They also showed them how to use machine translation software. In another case, a supervisor contacted the organization to help translate documentation surrounding farm equipment safety.
This is how the Help Center reached nearly 400 temporary foreign workers in just ten weeks (between April 21, 2021 and June 30, 2021). In a second phase, the organization plans to support at least 150 additional people by December 15, 2021.
A partner that opens doors
Les Services de main-d’oeuvre l’Appui, for their part, began by establishing a partnership with a farm at the start of the project. This made it possible to gain the confidence of the other owners of agricultural establishments, who were “more attentive and more committed”, notes the organization. An interesting gateway for the team, which toured some thirty agricultural establishments, concentrated mainly on Île d’Orléans between mid-May 2021 and June 30, 2021. The organization was thus able to sensitize some 200 workers during this period.
To cast an even wider net, a team from Services de main-d’oeuvre l’Appui also traveled in a Maxi, which was very popular with these workers from elsewhere, which allowed the organization to share with them the guide they had prepared, and thus create a bond of trust. This contact outside the workplace also allowed the team to find out about their specific needs.
Direct support that will continue until mid-December 2021, as Workforce Services l’Appui plans to reach an additional 260 temporary foreign workers between July 1, 2021 and December 15, 2021, in addition to distributing of leaflets. In doing so, they plan to cover a wider territory and help them understand and exercise their rights, access the health care system and manage their daily lives well. Distribution of pamphlets and bank of hours for legal advice and translation services are added to the offer.
On all terrains
In addition to visiting various agricultural businesses in the MRCs of Portneuf and La Jacques-Cartier, the Accès Travail Portneuf organization has implemented various actions to make itself known to temporary foreign workers. BBQ events, soccer games on Wednesday evenings, visits to Old Quebec or the Aboriginal village of Wendake: several activities are on the schedule.
But it is above all by offering an interpretation and accompaniment service in vaccination clinics that the organization has been able to establish its reputation. Similarly, each meeting gave rise to an exchange of contact details, which allowed temporary foreign workers to reach the stakeholders, for example via Messenger, WhatsApp, email.
Social media have also become a real distribution channel for Accès Travail Portneuf. Their professional Facebook page, as well as their discussion group, brought together more than 200 people. The organization used this channel to explain how to obtain its vaccination proof or to launch live content on how to obtain winter clothing. The page also presents the health measures in force in addition to allowing the organization to keep temporary foreign workers informed of the various activities scheduled.
To increase the autonomy of workers, the organization also directed them to available francization training—an approach that was particularly appreciated. However, several pointed out that the class hours were not very adapted to their work schedule. Similarly, the organization was able to observe in the field that the work in certain establishments, in particular on dairy farms, seemed difficult, with restrictive schedules and sometimes difficult conditions. Similarly, some farms had no means of transportation available to temporary foreign workers, making them completely dependent on their employer for transportation.
Although there is still work to be done, the efforts of Accès Travail Portneuf have been appreciated and the presence of the organization has made it possible to raise awareness among employers and the local population of the reality of temporary foreign workers, while improving relations between workers. and agricultural producers, notes the organization. “Relationships being better, this promotes a healthier work climate. This results in better productivity of temporary foreign workers and the repercussions are felt in the immediate environment. In total, the organization estimates that it will be able to reach more than 500 temporary foreign workers through its various services by December 15, 2021.