Urgent reforms needed for migrant agricultural workers, says food workers’ union in new report

TORONTO, Jan. 29, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- UFCW Canada, the country’s leading advocate for agricultural workers for over 30 years, is calling for urgent reforms to protect the health, safety and rights of migrant workers in a new report. The Status of Migrant Agricultural Workers in Canada 2023: Special Health & Safety Report examines critical health and safety concerns of the current system, described as contemporary form of slavery, that leaves migrant workers vulnerable to ongoing abuse and exploitation.

UFCW’s new report highlights the dangers that migrant agricultural workers face while in Canada, including sub-standard living conditions, chemical hazards, heat stress, and more. These workers face unique health and safety challenges due to their living and working conditions, lack of access to healthcare, and language barriers.

The tens of thousands of migrant workers are an integral part of the multi-billion dollar Canadian agricultural industry, providing crucial labour while working in conditions that has been described as “systematic slavery” by workers. In September of 2023, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, raised concerns about Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs, stating that they can foster contemporary forms of slavery. Canada’s employer-specific work permits make workers especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in developed countries. The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that at least 170,000 agricultural workers worldwide lose their lives annually, with millions more suffering severe injuries or poisoning from agrochemicals.

UFCW’s report concludes with urgent recommendations to address the health and safety concerns, including access to collective bargaining, improved housing conditions, reduced pesticide exposure, and more. In addition, the report calls on every level of government – federal, provincial, and municipal – to implement critically needed reforms for migrant workers.

For more than three decades, UFCW Canada has led the fight for migrant workers’ rights. To learn more about this advocacy and the reforms that are urgently needed, see UFCW Canada's report: The Status of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada, 2023.        


UFCW Canada (the United Food and Commercial Workers Union) represents more than 250,000 members across Canada working in every sector of the food industry from field to table. For over three decades, UFCW Canada has been the leading voice and advocate for domestic and migrant agricultural workers.


Santiago Escobar, National Representative
UFCW Canada
(905) 351-4082