Meeting with temporary workers

Last month we were invited by Options Community Services to attend a community-building meeting for Latin-American seasonal workers, where they were offered services such as help with income taxes and flu vaccinations. This month we’ve discovered that at least 200 of the Latin American workers have been left without a job, and without alternatives.

On March 4th, 2020, marijuana growers BC Tweed announced the closure of their hothouse farm, and with it the laying off of 500 workers, 200 of which had come from Guatemala for seasonal work. Right now, these workers are still in Canada through a one year visitor’s visa, but their work permit is no longer valid because permits for seasonal workers are tied in to the companies that hire them.

Mario Ayala, the person offering tax services to the workers, says he found out about the layoffs by accident. “I had come to give back their tax paperwork when I walked into an emergency meeting they were holding because the farm had closed down and they were unemployed.”

Through his personal contacts, Ayala found a farm that could take “forty to fifty” workers on the spot, and “the rest by June”. However, there does not currently exist a process to expedite the transfer of a work contract from one company to another, or from a bankrupt enterprise to a company in need of employees.

At the moment, organizations such as Options and MOSAIC are meeting with government officials, as well as the affected individuals, to see if a solution can be reached. It doesn’t help that the COVID-19 virus is restricting travel, leaving the workers virtually stranded. For now, all these seasonal workers can do is wait and hope that a solution can be found.

Photo: Victor Ayala

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