How to ensure that temporary foreign workers are aware of their rights, but also of the various resources available to them during their stay in Quebec? Since last spring, several organizations have implemented measures to help these newcomers, from their first steps on Quebec soil until their departure. The projects are funded by the Government of Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and coordinated by Immigrant Québec.
Since last spring, the Network for the Assistance of Migrant Agricultural Workers of Quebec (RATTMAQ) has had a booth directly at the Montreal airport. Thus, its workers are on site to welcome agricultural and food processing workers as soon as they leave the plane.
This campaign will have reached nearly 10,000 people between April 21 and June 30, from more than 65 international and domestic flights. To help them land well, the organization had prepared two leaflets to present them with their rights in times of COVID-19, as well as details concerning the mandatory quarantine. In addition, they left with a WhatsApp number to contact the organization directly, as well as a reusable fabric mask.
Over the same period, 771 temporary foreign workers contacted the organization, which equates to an average of 11 calls per day. The team also helped around 30 people for whom the employer had not respected certain standards, such as mandatory quarantine, by offering them legal support.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program having been extended until December 15, 2021, this allows the RATTMAQ team to continue its support, advocacy and information activities for the most vulnerable workers. Thus, by maintaining its presence at the Montreal airport, it plans to reach 15,000 workers before they fly off to return to their country of origin.
And temporary foreign workers will not leave empty-handed, since the RATTMAQ team has prepared a new brochure for them presenting their rights in anticipation of the 2022 season. For example, it explains what to do if they feel they have been unfairly dismissed.
Other organizations have also carried out information projects for temporary foreign workers throughout the duration of their contract in Quebec. This is the case of AGRIcarrières, a sectoral labor committee for agricultural production, which has launched a practical application for the use of labor in this area. Called Agri-Connexion, this reference tool offers popular information in French, English and Spanish on practical topics, such as housing, accident prevention, labor rights and COVID-19. As of June 30, 2021, nearly 750 people had connected to the application launched at the end of April, calculates the organization.
In addition to working more closely with various organizations in the field, AGRIcarrières has also been able to strengthen its direct links with foreign workers. Indeed, the organization deployed a brigade that visited some 500 agricultural establishments across Quebec, and this, only between April 22, 2021 and June 30, 2021. “ Usually, as a sectoral labor committee implemented and in collaboration with the Agricultural Employment Centers (CEA), our area of intervention is more with agricultural employers. This project has allowed us to get closer to the [temporary foreign workers] themselves, to understand them better, to hear their concerns and to develop specific tools for them”, underlines AGRIcarrières in its progress report.
The organization has also posted webisodes on topics such as freedom of movement and the transfer and extension of contracts. This content is available live or delayed on the application. Different thematic sheets complete the whole.
By December 15, 2021, the team plans to continue promoting the free Agri-Connexion application through its network, in addition to enriching everything with new content, such as web episodes and other thematic sheets. . In addition, some 250 farms will also be visited by the field team between July 1 and mid-December 2021.
For its part, the Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) has developed a decision tree for foreign agricultural workers and their employers. A way to help them find their way between the different measures available during the pandemic according to the different scenarios. Indeed, between the programs set up by the federal and provincial governments and the events covered by private insurance, it can be difficult to navigate for someone who is not familiar with the Canadian system.
To adapt to changing realities and changes in aid programs related to COVID-19, the team makes sure to update the document monthly. Links to the various programs are also integrated directly into this decision tree, offered not only in French, but also in Spanish. For each type of absence from work related to COVID-19, the person who must file the claim, whether the foreign worker or his employer, is also identified. Thus, the various procedures related to the pandemic are facilitated.
This one-of-a-kind checklist is available on the UPA website as well as on the Agri-Connexion application. This tool is also shared in PDF format with the various stakeholders who participate in the consultation table for foreign agricultural workers, a body that brings together organizations related to them.