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Friday, January 13, 2012

Jagrup’s blog – Farm workers

Jagrup’s blog – Farm workers

Today [January 10] I walked to the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS) in Surrey to meet with farm workers and activists who continue to fight for the rights of farm workers.

Charan Gill, CEO of PICS and a long time farm worker representative has dedicated much of his life to the plight of farm workers. Charan told me that farm workers can work a hundred hours a week without receiving any overtime compensation. There is no minimum wage or statutory holiday for them.
The majority of farm workers work very long, physically demanding days, often standing in inclement weather only to make a very low wage. They are the working poor, living in poverty and struggling to put food on their own table.

I met with Arti today who told me that when he started out as a farm worker, he used to get up at 5am and return around 10pm. Arti is paid the same amount each day regardless of how many hours he works. His wage works out to about $6 an hour. Arti works seven days a week and says he’s never received overtime or minimum wage.
When I left PICS, I thought about how the majority of farm workers in B.C., many new immigrants, are exploited. They work without the same protections and basic rights as other workers who receive a minimum wage, rest periods, vacation pay, statutory holiday pay, and overtime pay. They are not on welfare and they work very hard for the very basic necessities that many of us take for granted every day.
I would like to thank Charan Gill and his staff for connecting me with the farm workers to hear their stories. I would also like to thank Mr. Pritam Muker, President of the Canadian Farm workers union, and former president Raj Chouhan (now my colleague as the MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds and the New Democrat labour critic) for standing up for farm worker rights.

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