Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic: Migrant Farmworkers in Canada (Politics of Citizenship and Migration) 9783031177033, 9783031177040, 3031177037

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Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic: Migrant Farmworkers in Canada (Politics of Citizenship and Migration)
 9783031177033, 9783031177040, 3031177037

Table of contents :
Acknowledgements
Praise For Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic: Migrant Farmworkers In Canada
Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
1 Introduction
Situating the Case Study: COVID-19 Outbreaks, Travel Bans, and Exemptions in the Canadian Context
Rates, Clusters, Outbreaks, and their Drivers in the Canadian Labour Market
Canada’s Initial Response to COVID-19: Counteracting COVID-Safety Protocols with Labour Market Activation and Exemptions to Travel Bans
Agriculture in Canada: An Essential Industry and Major Site of COVID-19 Outbreaks
Methodology and Methods
A Multi-Method Approach
Description of the Sample
Analysis
Chapter Outline
References
2 Rethinking Employment Strain Through a Transnational Lens: Centring Migrant Workers’ Lives
Migrant Farmworkers in Canada: The Institutional Context
Transnational Employment Strain
How a Global Health Crisis Exacerbated Employment Strain Among Essential Migrant Farmworkers
References
3 Transnational Employment Strain: A Longstanding Feature of Migrant Farm Work
Employment Demands Among Transnational Migrant Farmworkers
Occupational Health Hazards and Injuries
Pressure to Increase Productivity and Extend Working Hours
Overcrowded and Substandard Housing
Deportability
Transnational Responsibilities and Employment Demands
Employment Resources Available to Migrant Farmworkers
Control Over the Work Environment
Adequate Remuneration
Protecting Migrant Farmworkers from Excessive Employment Demand: Government Initiatives
References
4 Transnational Employment Strain in Pandemic Times: Magnified Strains and Insufficient Resources
Increased Occupational Health Risks and Inadequate Protections
Amplified Strains in Employer-Provided Housing
Heightened Insecurity: Reprisals, Dismissals, and Repatriation
Reduced Earnings and Insufficient Income Supports
“Essential” but Excluded from Employment Resources Provided to Frontline Workers
Wider Community: Employment Demand or Resource?
References
5 Mitigating Transnational Employment Strain Among Migrant Farmworkers: Principles and Practical Strategies
Status Upon Arrival and an Overhaul of the Regulation and Valuation of Work in Agriculture
Protection from Employer Reprisals Prompting Repatriation: An Independent Tribunal and Open Work Permits
A National Housing Standard
Meaningful Access to Income Support and Wide-Ranging Services
Access to Public Health Insurance
Decency in Wages and Collective Bargaining Rights for Agricultural Workers: Increasing Workers’ Power Over the Employment Relationship
Regular and Unannounced Workplace and Housing Inspections
Beyond Canada: Understanding the Transnational Employment Strain Globally
References
References
Index

Citation preview

Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic Migrant Farmworkers in Canada Leah F. Vosko Tanya Basok Cynthia Spring

Politics of Citizenship and Migration

Series Editor Leila Simona Talani, Department of European and International Studies, King’s College London, London, UK

The Politics of Citizenship and Migration series publishes exciting new research in all areas of migration and citizenship studies. Open to multiple approaches, the series considers interdisciplinary as well political, economic, legal, comparative, empirical, historical, methodological, and theoretical works. Broad in its coverage, the series promotes research on the politics and economics of migration, globalization and migration, citizenship and migration laws and policies, voluntary and forced migration, rights and obligations, demographic change, diasporas, political membership or behavior, public policy, minorities, border and security studies, statelessness, naturalization, integration and citizen-making, and subnational, supranational, global, corporate, or multilevel citizenship. Versatile, the series publishes single and multi-authored monographs, short-form Pivot books, and edited volumes. For an informal discussion for a book in the series, please contact the series editor Leila Simona Talani ([email protected]), or Palgrave editor Anne Birchley-Brun ([email protected]). This series is indexed in Scopus.

Leah F. Vosko · Tanya Basok · Cynthia Spring

Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic Migrant Farmworkers in Canada

Leah F. Vosko York University Toronto, ON, Canada

Tanya Basok University of Windsor Windsor, ON, Canada

Cynthia Spring York University Toronto, ON, Canada

ISSN 2520-8896 ISSN 2520-890X (electronic) Politics of Citizenship and Migration ISBN 978-3-031-17703-3 ISBN 978-3-031-17704-0 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17704-0 © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

In memory of all migrant farmworkers who died of COVID-19 related illnesses during the global health pandemic and to those who continue to toil on foreign soils far from home to put food on our tables.

Acknowledgements

The publication of Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic: Migrant Farmworkers in Canada comes at a time that we sincerely hope marks the diminution of the COVID-19 pandemic, a global health crisis wreaking havoc on the lives of migrant workers holding precarious legal status in essential industries such as agriculture. For Tanya Basok and Leah Vosko, it also comes after longstanding research with and advocacy on behalf of migrant farmworkers labouring in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, Canada as well as internationally, including in our work with members of the Migrant Worker HealthExpert Working Group—to whom we extend our sincere thanks—and, in Leah Vosko’s case, the independent International Labour Organization (ILO) Working Group on Temporary Labour Migration. Indeed, this book finds its origins in such international work, specifically, a study we undertook, together with Guillermo Candiz and Glynis George, for the ILO’s Migration Branch.1 We particularly acknowledge Guillermo Candiz for conducting interviews in Quebec and Niagara, Ontario, and compiling information on COVID-related interventions in Quebec. We also thank Glynis George, who contributed to this project by furnishing information on Windsor-Essex area service provision and funding certain project

1 This study resulted in a 2022 working paper entitled COVID-19 Among Migrant Farmworkers in Canada: Employment Strain in a Transnational Context (Vosko et al 2022), which served as a point of departure for this book.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

expenses through her MITACS Partnership grant. We are also grateful to the ILO for its support, in the form of stipends for research assistants, and for its invitation to prepare an independent report on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrant farmworkers in Canada as a background study for its World Employment and Social Outlook Report 2022 (L. F. Vosko, Principal Investigator) and ILO experts Janine Berg and Fabiola Mieres for their helpful comments on the resulting study. We are also grateful to Erika Borrelli for her assistance in conducting interviews, formatting the book manuscript, and preparing the index, and Paulina Mariana Martinez Morales for her assistance in conducting interviews. We are likewise indebted to the three anonymous peer reviewers of this book for their incisive and provocative comments. Sadly, at the beginning of December 2022, after receiving endorsements for this book and learning the identity of one of these reviewers in the process, we received the sad news of the passing of Gustavo Verduzco, a El Colegio de Mexico rural sociologist, whose incredibly valuable research on Mexican agricultural workers in Canada we wish to acknowledge. Leah Vosko also thanks the Canada Research Chairs Program for its financial support and Gerald and Sydney for cheering us on at every stage, Tanya Basok thanks the University of Windsor for its support through internal research funds, Cynthia Spring thanks the doctoral fellowship program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Anna for her support throughout this endeavour, and the three of us thank each other for sharing equally in the preparation of this book. Lastly, yet foremost, we thank the thirty migrant farmworkers who shared their stories with us—and to whom, along with those who suffered from COVID-19, some of whom have sadly lost their voice, this work is dedicated. December 2022

Leah F. Vosko Tanya Basok Cynthia Spring

Praise For Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic: Migrant Farmworkers In Canada

“Combining ethnographic research with comprehensive policy analysis, Vosko, Basok, and Spring reveal the systematic violence that migrant workers endure in Canadian greenhouses, fields, and associated work sites. Refusing to restrict themselves to simplistic economic explanations, they illuminate the complex, dynamic relationships among workers’ experiences, the failures of provincial and home governments, and the probability that working conditions will worsen with increased privatization of foreign worker programs.” —David Griffith, Professor, East Carolina University, USA, and author of The Cultural Value of Work: Livelihoods and Migration in the World’s Economies (2022) “In this concise and original book, Vosko, Basok, and Spring offer a rich analysis of the first-hand experiences of migrant farmworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada—and, convincingly, make the direct link between these experiences of hardship and the structural vulnerabilities that existed pre-COVID. This book is an important contribution to the labour migration scholarship.” —Adam Perry, Assistant Professor, St. Francis Xavier University, Canada

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PRAISE FOR TRANSNATIONAL EMPLOYMENT STRAIN IN A …

“This book adopts a multiple method approach to highlight the insufficiency of policy interventions in producing meaningful protections for essential migrant farmworkers. In response, it offers a novel vision worthy of further discussion and research.” —Gustavo Verduzco Igartúa, Professor-Researcher, El Colegio de México

Contents

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2

Introduction Situating the Case Study: COVID-19 Outbreaks, Travel Bans, and Exemptions in the Canadian Context Rates, Clusters, Outbreaks, and their Drivers in the Canadian Labour Market Canada’s Initial Response to COVID-19: Counteracting COVID-Safety Protocols with Labour Market Activation and Exemptions to Travel Bans Agriculture in Canada: An Essential Industry and Major Site of COVID-19 Outbreaks Methodology and Methods A Multi-Method Approach Description of the Sample Analysis Chapter Outline References Rethinking Employment Strain Through a Transnational Lens: Centring Migrant Workers’ Lives Migrant Farmworkers in Canada: The Institutional Context Transnational Employment Strain How a Global Health Crisis Exacerbated Employment Strain Among Essential Migrant Farmworkers References

1 4 4

6 7 10 10 12 15 16 18 25 28 36 40 42 xi

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3

4

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CONTENTS

Transnational Employment Strain: A Longstanding Feature of Migrant Farm Work Employment Demands Among Transnational Migrant Farmworkers Occupational Health Hazards and Injuries Pressure to Increase Productivity and Extend Working Hours Overcrowded and Substandard Housing Deportability Transnational Responsibilities and Employment Demands Employment Resources Available to Migrant Farmworkers Control Over the Work Environment Adequate Remuneration Protecting Migrant Farmworkers from Excessive Employment Demand: Government Initiatives References Transnational Employment Strain in Pandemic Times: Magnified Strains and Insufficient Resources Increased Occupational Health Risks and Inadequate Protections Amplified Strains in Employer-Provided Housing Heightened Insecurity: Reprisals, Dismissals, and Repatriation Reduced Earnings and Insufficient Income Supports “Essential” but Excluded from Employment Resources Provided to Frontline Workers Wider Community: Employment Demand or Resource? References Mitigating Transnational Employment Strain Among Migrant Farmworkers: Principles and Practical Strategies Status Upon Arrival and an Overhaul of the Regulation and Valuation of Work in Agriculture Protection from Employer Reprisals Prompting Repatriation: An Independent Tribunal and Open Work Permits A National Housing Standard Meaningful Access to Income Support and Wide-Ranging Services

49 54 54 58 59 61 64 65 65 67 70 73 79 81 85 92 96 100 101 105

111 116 120 121 122

CONTENTS

Access to Public Health Insurance Decency in Wages and Collective Bargaining Rights for Agricultural Workers: Increasing Workers’ Power Over the Employment Relationship Regular and Unannounced Workplace and Housing Inspections Beyond Canada: Understanding the Transnational Employment Strain Globally References

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125 126 127 130

References

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Index

155

List of Figures

Fig. 2.1 Fig. 2.2 Fig. 2.3 Fig. 2.4

Job strain From job strain to transnational employment strain Work permit holders in Canada by year in which the permits became effective, 2002–2021 Transnational employment strain

26 27 35 40

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List of Tables

Table 2.1

Table 2.2

Work permit holders under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) of the TFWP, by country of citizenship (all 10 participating countries), 2011–2021 Work permit holders under AS of the TFWP, by country of citizenship (top 10 only), 2011–2021

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CHAPTER 1

Introduction

Abstract The security of Canada’s local food supply rests on migrant farmworkers. Given this reliance, Chapter 1 explores how, during the global health pandemic, alongside introducing sweeping public health and safety restrictions, Canada managed threats of national food shortages by boosting agricultural production and processing capacity to address an emerging backlog of produce and ensuring growers’ continued access to migrant farmworkers. In the face of such interventions, the analysis shows that while farms and greenhouses were declared essential worksites, justifying exemptions from border restrictions applicable to migrant farmworkers, they proved prone to COVID-19 outbreaks. Keywords COVID-19 · Health crisis · Migrant farmworkers · Canada · Precarious employment · Mixed methods

The 2020–2022 COVID-19 pandemic revealed that migrant workers, often from the Global South, fill a significant number of jobs in sectors deemed “essential” to the economic and social well-being of high-income industrialized countries of the Global North. Those in Canada’s agriculture industry represent a case in point. The security of Canada’s local food supply rests on migrant farmworkers. Consequently, during the © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 L. F. Vosko et al., Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic, Politics of Citizenship and Migration, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17704-0_1

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pandemic, to address a developing backlog of produce and counteract threats to food security, Canada’s federal government sought to boost agricultural production and processing capacity while ensuring migrant farmworkers were exempt from pandemic-related travel restrictions and available to work for growers. In this context, as farms and greenhouses were declared essential worksites, they also faced numerous large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks. Indeed, in Canada’s most populous provinces, thousands of migrant farmworkers contracted the virus at a rate disproportionate to the general population. For example, in Ontario, by June 2020, the rate of transmission was approximately 20 times higher for the migrant farmworker population compared to the larger provincial population (Vosko & Spring, 2021). In addition to new health risks associated with contracting COVID-19, the pandemic had deleterious effects on workers’ conditions of work, health, and well-being more broadly. This book explores the dynamics behind these outcomes, highlighting the importance of migrant farmworkers to the Canadian economy, society, and the world of work alongside the conditions they endured before and during the global health pandemic. It evaluates the effects of COVID-19 on migrant farmworkers through policy and media analysis and open-ended interviews with workers enrolled in two streams of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) as well as migrants employed in agriculture without legal authorization (hereafter non-status migrants) located in Ontario and Quebec. In this exploration, we derive insight from the employment strain model, a framework for understanding risks to the physical and psychological well-being of workers. We conceptualize “employment strain” as emanating from the interaction between employment demands, such as risks of occupational injuries or exposure to dangerous substances, workplace pressure, extended working hours, and insecurity linked to precarious employment and residency status, on the one hand, and employment resources, such as control over the working environment, fair remuneration, access to income support in case of injury, illness, unemployment, or leave of absence, meaningful access to health care, and so on, on the other hand. However, our policy and media analysis, together with interviews with migrant farmworkers about their health and work prior to and during the pandemic led us to expand this framework in order to account for transnational relationships in the lives of migrant farmworkers as well as policies and policy interventions contributing to employment demands, employment resources, or both.

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As non-citizens holding precarious residency status (i.e., both nonstatus migrant farmworkers and those labouring under state-sanctioned guestworker programs) in Canada, demands and strains more broadly, as well as workers’ responses to them, are produced through global inequalities in a transnational context. Legally authorized migrant farmworkers in Canada hold employer-specific work permits and thereby live under constant threat of repatriation—a possibility that can limit willingness to voice concerns about workplace health and safety or unjust employment practices. Some migrant farmworkers enter Canada under temporary labour migration programs governed by bilateral agreements between Canada and sending states (i.e., the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program or SAWP hereafter), meaning that sending states can technically intervene to uphold protections and rights for their citizens labouring transnationally; however, this potential employment resource is often undermined by participating and relatively lower income sending states’ reluctance to jeopardize their good standing in the program and the economic benefits that accompany to protect their nationals. Other migrants are employed as farmworkers on a program (i.e., a sub-program of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, hereafter TFWP), the Agricultural Stream (hereafter AS), that requires no bilateral agreements, and no bilaterally agreed mechanisms to oversee the conditions under which they are employed. Regardless of the program, migrant farmworkers in Canada are severed from their families and support networks in their countries of origin, and this separation has an emotional toll on the workers. At the same time, transnational relationships can serve as a resource as well, often reflected in migrant farmworkers’ investment in sending earnings home on a regular basis in order to improve or sustain their families’ standard of living within countries of origins. To account for these and other complex dynamics compromising and protecting migrant workers’ health and well-being, we develop the concept of transnational employment strain and apply it to the case of migrant farmworkers holding insecure residency status in Canada. We argue that the working and living conditions this group endured during the COVID-19 pandemic are intertwined with those established on farms prior to the emergence of the virus and, thus, with the terms, conditions, and organization of the subprograms of the TFWP in agriculture in which they are enrolled. Moreover, the policies introduced to help better protect, or provide employment resources to, migrant farmworkers during the arguably unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic

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not only failed to address the employment demands they experience as seasonal workers with fixed-term contracts and employer-tied work permits and their transnational relationships but, in some cases, amplified pre-existing demands compromising their well-being. While it shone a light on employment strain pre-existing among this essential workforce, the global health crisis no doubt deepened the structural vulnerabilities migrant farmworkers experience.

Situating the Case Study: COVID-19 Outbreaks, Travel Bans, and Exemptions in the Canadian Context Rates, Clusters, Outbreaks, and their Drivers in the Canadian Labour Market As of July 16, 2022, when some Canadian provinces’ public health departments declared a seventh wave of COVID-19 outbreaks (on Ontario, see PHO, 2022b; on Quebec see Thomas, 2022),1 Canada had reported a total of 4,023,104 cases of COVID-19 and 42,447 deaths resulting from complications related to the virus (PHAC, 2022). Rates of infection varied across industries and among workers, shaped especially by demands placed on those deemed “essential.” Unsurprisingly, healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients were significantly affected such that, in July 2020, at the tail end of Canada’s first wave, those with COVID-19 accounted for fully 19.4% of all cases (i.e., 21,842 of 112,672 total COVID-19 cases nationally). Case volumes grew throughout the 1 Canada’s first wave started in March 2020 and concluded in June 2020 (in that period, the highest new case count daily was 2760); the second wave took place from November 2020 to February 2021 (the highest new case count daily was 8766); the third wave occurred from March 2021 and June 2021 (the highest daily new case count was 9570) (CIHI, 2021); the fourth wave started in August 2021 and persisted through October 2021; the fifth wave started in December 2021 and was declared over in February 2022 (the highest daily new case count exceeded 55,000) (PHAC, 2022), though reporting from this wave forward is affected by many provinces’ decision to limit Polymerase Chain Reaction, hereafter PCR, testing to high-risk populations exclusively. In late March 2022, Canada entered a sixth wave (the highest daily new case count exceeded 10,000, although these numbers may be skewed by the decision to limit PCR testing (PHAC, 2022), followed by a seventh wave declared in June 2022.

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pandemic among healthcare workers, yet these workers’ share of cases fell as subsequent waves unfolded: in June 2021, they represented 6.8% of all cases (as of June 15, 2021, 94,873 healthcare workers had contracted COVID-19; see CIHI, 2021). Beyond health care, workplace outbreaks occurred early in the first wave (April 2020) in meat processing, comprised of many large plants in which large numbers of newcomers to Canada and migrant workers labour at once and in close proximity, due to the need for time-sensitive onsite shifts under conditions in which physical distancing is near impossible. Such outbreaks included a meat processing facility in High River, Alberta, where over one-third of Canadian beef is produced, over 900 workers tested positive, and two died, among the 2000 mostly new immigrants employed (Croteau, 2020). Other meat processing facilities in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec experienced large outbreaks and were forced to halt or slow production (Baum et al., 2020). By December 2020, Canada’s national daily, The Globe and Mail, reported that the spread of infections in manufacturing, including food processing, warehousing, and construction workplaces, had surpassed cases in long-term residential care facilities (the main site of outbreaks during Canada’s first wave); indeed, these areas of manufacturing accounted for 15% and 22% of ongoing outbreaks in Ontario and Quebec respectively (Marotta, 2020). Oil-sands workplaces in Alberta also proved particularly prone to large outbreaks (in May 2021, at least two such worksites reported more than 1300 cases (Yourex-West, 2021), while farms and food processing plants had high numbers of workplace-related transmission (as of March 6, 2022, Public Health Ontario reported 3,344 cumulative cases on farm worksites and 4,049 cumulative cases in processing plants; see PHO, 2022a). Non-white workers also faced heightened risks associated with job loss and transmission of COVID-19 during pandemic. Alook et al.’s 2021 analysis of Statistic Canada’s Labour Force Survey (LFS) data reveals that racialized workers (i.e., persons, other than Indigenous people, who identify themselves as non-Caucasian or non-white) are over-represented in the industries such as accommodation and food services, information, culture, and recreation, and wholesale and retail trade—industries that accounted for 80% of job losses between August 2020 and June 2021 (Alook et al., 2021). Also during this time period, 56% of employed women workers (including both non-white and white women) laboured

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in jobs with the highest risks of infection,2 such as child care workers, personal support workers, cashiers, nurse practitioners, meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers. In contrast, only 33% of non-white men workers and 28% of white men workers were employed in these high-risk occupations between August 2020 and June 2021 (Alook et al., 2021). Given this variance across industries as well as among workers, there is a need to evaluate whether and the degree to which government policies, including those serving to secure labour for essential industries, also protected workers, including non-white migrant farmworkers on temporary work visas, from high rates of infection. Canada’s Initial Response to COVID-19: Counteracting COVID-Safety Protocols with Labour Market Activation and Exemptions to Travel Bans As daily cases of COVID-19 began to rise in March 2020, Canada’s federal government made overarching recommendations for work-fromhome policies (March 10), published guidance on self-isolation (March 11), and, eventually, usage of masks (April 7). Notably, on April 6, 2020, the federal government launched the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a $2000 CAD monthly income support for workers who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also at the beginning of the first wave, Canada began to issue travel restrictions; initially, on March 18, it closed the border to non-citizens for non-essential travel, and then, on March 24, it implemented a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for those returning from foreign travel. Complimenting these interventions was a rapidly implemented suite of labour force activation strategies to ensure essential industries could still operate. For instance, as a growing portion of Canada’s domestic workforce came to experience under- or unemployment related to social distancing requirements and mass layoffs in sectors such as accommodation and food services, on April 8, 2020 the Canadian federal government

2 Alook et al. (2021) employ a Canadian adaptation of the ONet index of physical

proximity to evaluate risk of infection at a given occupation. This metric scores jobs (out of 100) on the basis of how close workers get to customers, clients or other workers in comparison to other occupations; occupations deemed “highest” risk include those occupations that fall in the top 30% of occupations on the ONet scale (Canadian adaptation).

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expanded the Canada Summer Jobs—a program that aims to generate jobs for Canadians aged 15–30 by providing public and private sector employers with partial wage subsidies and non-profit employers full wage subsidies—offering private and public sector employers delivering essential services wage subsidies amounting to 100% of the provincial minimum wage (PMO, 2020). Meanwhile, reflecting Canada’s deep reliance on migrant workers in essential industries like agriculture, some non-citizens, including international students and migrant farmworkers, were exempt from travel restrictions in order to, as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) (2020b) put it, “safeguard the continuity of trade, commerce, health and food security for all.” Furthermore, in an effort to move unemployed migrant workers, already present in Canada on closed work permits and facing the potential loss of residency status, into essential jobs, immigration officials expedited hiring processes by allowing those who had secured jobs to start working even if a work permit was yet to be issued (IRCC, 2020a). To supplement these initiatives, on April 23, 2020, restrictions limiting international students’ working hours (i.e., a maximum of 20 hours of paid work per week while classes are in session) were lifted, on the condition that those international students taking on additional hours were employed in an essential service or function, such as healthcare, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food (IRCC, 2020b).3 At the provincial level, some jurisdictions pursued industry-specific activation measures; for example, starting April 15, 2020, Quebec offered residents employed in farm work a $100 weekly bonus (Government of Quebec, 2020). Agriculture in Canada: An Essential Industry and Major Site of COVID-19 Outbreaks Season to season, agricultural producers depend on migrant farmworkers to fill jobs undesirable to citizens or permanent residents; in 2019 alone, Canada issued 56,710 temporary permits in agriculture under

3 Notably, international students were excluded from the Canada Emergency Student

Benefit, an income support for post-secondary students unable to find employment due to the pandemic; in a context in which international travel was either impossible or very difficult, many international students could not return to their country of origin and were left with few options but to work in essential often high-risk industries, including in agriculture, during the first and second wave.

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its TFWP. Thus, COVID-19-related interruptions to temporary labour migration posed potentially devastating consequences to Canada’s agriculture industry. Faced with mounting pressure from growers (Grant, 2020; Powell, 2020), the federal government lifted travel restrictions for migrant agricultural workers and issued 52,040 temporary work permits in agriculture in 2020 (a number comparable to previous years, see IRCC, 2022). However, these worksites proved to be prone to COVID19 outbreaks, compromising migrant farmworkers’ economic, social, and physical well-being.4 In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and the destination for a majority of migrant farmworkers entering Canada, Public Health Ontario (2021) documented 49 outbreaks on farm worksites throughout the 2020 season. Illustrating the scale of such outbreaks on some individual farms, data obtained from Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board reveal that the farms with the largest outbreaks filed between 100 and 200 lost-time claims related to COVID-19 in 2020 (WSIB, 2021).5 Looking specifically at migrant workers, it is estimated that over 1,000 migrant farmworkers tested positive for COVID-19 between April and July 2020 in Ontario alone,6 and three Mexican farmworkers died from the virus while working in the province that year. Following significant delays in receiving medical treatment, Bonifacio Eugenio-Romero, a 31-year-old migrant farmworker, died of COVID-19 complications in Windsor-Essex, Ontario on May 30, 2020. Twenty-four year-old Rogelio Muñoz died in a Southern Ontario

4 It is important to emphasize that in the seven waves of COVID-19 under study, knowledge about the virus and the effects of different public health interventions was rapidly shifting. For example, at the dawn of the pandemic, evidence-based arguments advocating the use of masks were scant and, until Fall 2021, calls for the use of particular masks, such as K- and N-95s were limited. Furthermore, at the time of writing, knowledge about COVID-19 infection fatality rates was still evolving (Brown, 2020; Ioannidis, 2021). So, too, was knowledge about the costs and benefits of ongoing large scale COVID-19 interventions, such as municipal or provincial/state lockdowns, with attention to other public health metrics such as psychological and social well-being (see, e.g. Bagus et al., 2021; Joffe, 2021; Lau et al., 2020). 5 The farms with the greatest number of claims were Scotlynn Sweetpac Growers Ltd. (199); Nature Fresh Farms Inc. (195); Highline Produce Limited (171); Agriville Farms Ltd. (147); Greenhill Produce Ltd. (124)) (WSIB, 2021). 6 On July 7, 2020, the Toronto Star reported that infected migrant farmworker count surpassed 1,000 (Mojtehedzadeh, 2020), and, through a survey of local public-health units, the Globe and Mail also reported over 1,000 cases among migrant farmworkers on July 13, 2020 (Baum et al., 2020).

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hospital in early June. And, after fighting COVID-19 for three weeks, Juan Lopez Chaparro, a 55-year-old father of four, died on June 18, 2020 in London, Ontario.7 Outbreaks on farms continued throughout the 2021 season and 2022 shoulder season such that by March 5, 2022,8 Public Health Ontario (2021) documented 3,344 positive COVID-19 cases associated with 282 reported on-farm outbreaks (cumulative from April 2020). Moreover, between March and June 2021, five workers died during the mandatory quarantine period upon arrival in Ontario (Caxaj et al., 2022; MWAC, 2021).9 Similarly large-scale outbreaks also emerged on Quebec farms; however, Quebec’s INSPQ does not provide for cumulative data of the sort provided by its Ontario counterpart.10 High infection and mortality rates among migrant farmworkers find their roots in longstanding systemic and structural gaps in protection and workers’ constrained access to fundamental rights before and during the pandemic—all of which, together with the administration of Canada’s two foremost temporary migrant work programs in agriculture, exacerbate employment strain among migrant farmworkers. Canada’s experience was not unique. After deeming migrant farmworkers to be essential for the country’s economy and food security, many countries, including the US, Italy, Spain, and Germany also exempted these workers from travel bans and/or launched additional programs to ensure that growers were guaranteed access to labour (e.g., Corrado & Caruso, 2022; Palumbo, 2022; Schneider & Götte, 2022). Similar to Canada, these countries failed to take measures to protect migrant farmworkers from the spread of the virus, and outbreaks became widespread (Corrado & Caruso, 7 Following calls for a public inquest into these deaths, the Office of the Chief Coroner

launched a confidential review of migrant workers who died after contracting COVID-19, yet advocates and media characterized this review as no substitute for a much-needed public inquest (Mojtehedzadeh & Mendleson, 2021). 8 After March 8, 2022, Public Health Ontario ceased to report data on farm outbreaks. 9 Logan Grant, from Jamaica, died while in a quarantine hotel on March 22, 2021

(cause of death unknown); Romario Morgan, of St. Vincent, also died on April 29, 2021 while residing at a quarantine hotel (cause of death unknown) (Mojtehedzadeh & Keung, 2021; MWAC, 2021). Jose Antonio Coronado, of Mexico, died on April 21 just after arriving in the Port. Elgin, Ontario region, and an unnamed worker from Guatemala died in June 2021 as they were self-isolating on arrival to Ontario (Mojtehedzadeh & Keung, 2021). 10 For media accounts, see Champagne, 2021; Meza, 2020.

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2022; Corrado & Palumbo, 2022; Güell & Garcés-Mascareñas, 2020; Lauzardo et al., 2021; Palumbo, 2022; Schneider & Götte, 2022). Within these different national contexts, COVID-19 not only exposed workers to new risks, it degraded migrant farmworkers’ employment conditions in several other ways. In this book, we document and analyse the deteriorating working and living conditions among migrant farmworkers in Canada based on policy and field research conducted principally between October 2021 and February 2022, as discussed below.

Methodology and Methods To document the nature and magnitude of transnational employment strain among migrant farmworkers in the research undertaken for this book we engage a mixed-methods, team-based methodology to explore the relationship between Canada’s TFWP, migrant farmworkers’ risks of acquiring COVID-19, and their experiences working and living in Canada during the pandemic. We place particular attention on the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s two most populous provinces and those in which a majority of migrant farmworkers in Canada are employed.11 A Multi-Method Approach In conducting research for this book, we relied on multiple methods: administrative data analysis; policy and media analysis drawn from the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020 to March 2022; and semistructured interviews of workers. The insights we offer herein flow from the “active mixing” of critical public policy analysis with insights from migrant farmworkers, a recursive and dialogical strategy that seeks to produce practical directives towards transformative change (Denzin, 2010; Mirchandani et al., 2018). Critical public policy analysis focussed on federal and provincial laws and policies responding to the COVID-19 crisis and directed at migrant farmworkers, as well as submissions to and minutes of local public health unit’s board and committee meetings.

11 In 2020, for instance, 50,126 temporary migrant farmworkers were employed in Canadian agriculture. That year, approximately 22,834 of such workers (or 45.6% of all migrant farmworkers in Canada) worked in Ontario, while 13,094 (or 26% of all migrant farmworkers in Canada) worked in Quebec (Hou et al., 2021).

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Informing our ensuing profile of Canada’s 2020 migrant workforce, illustrating trends in entry, source country concentration, and rates of COVID-19 transmission, statistical analysis of administrative data drew on customized data requests from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and publicly accessible data. In turn, media analysis entailed an extensive survey of Canadian-based reporting on policy development and on-farm outbreaks, revealing how the life and death implications of poor working conditions in agriculture reached a flashpoint in public discourse with a surge of media attention, particularly in the pandemic’s first and second waves, highlighting the insufficiency of policy interventions in producing meaningful protections for essential migrant farmworkers. Finally, we conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with thirty migrant farmworkers who were either currently enrolled in the TFWP or non-status migrant workers employed in agriculture. In conducting interviews, we employed purposeful sampling (Patton, 2015); to recruit participants, we relied on strategies including our previous contacts among migrant workers and referrals by local migrant support organization. In Quebec, RATTMAQ (Réseau d’aide aux travailleuses et travailleurs migrants agricoles du Québec or Assistance Networks for Migrant Agricultural Workers in Quebec) played a vital part in our research. To recruit other participants, we used snowball sampling. We conducted all in-depth interviews in Quebec and Ontario. In Ontario, one interview took place in the Niagara region, and the remaining interviews were conducted in the Leamington area. In Quebec, interviews took place in the Capitale-Nationale region and in the Montréal region. In order to protect interviewees’ anonymity and offer flexibility to ensure their comfort,12 the interviews were carried out in the homes of workers, in public spaces, on the premises of support organizations, the workplace, and other locations. Some interviews were also conducted remotely through the WhatsApp application. The interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed, and subjected to primary and secondary analytic coding.

12 All names utilized in this book are pseudonyms.

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Description of the Sample At the interview stage, thirteen workers that we interviewed were employed in Quebec and seventeen in Ontario, and eight interviewed workers were from Mexico, fifteen from Guatemala, two from Honduras, four from Jamaica, and one from the Philippines. While our sample is diverse, with respect to the country of origin, because migrant farmworkers from Guatemala predominate in Quebec, Guatemalan interviewees were over-represented in the sample. In 2019, for instance, 16,525 migrant farmworkers participated in the TFWP in Quebec, and 9,620 (58%) were AS permit holders from Guatemala. Meanwhile, Mexican SAWP permit holders accounted for 36.5% (a total of 6,025) of all temporary workers in the province (Beausoleil, 2020). Notably, in contrast to most academic studies of migrant farmworkers, which often focus primarily on SAWP workers as this program is so longstanding, dating to mid-1960s, those recruited under the AS constituted the majority of interviewees in the sample. Only seven migrants interviewed in our study had entered Canada as SAWP participants and six were still working under this program. Some workers in our sample were either in transition from one status (or contract) to another or had moved to a different legal status. Such shifting of legal statuses is to be expected; migrant farmworkers admitted on temporary contracts do not always remain TFWP participants, and, as scholars have documented, either move into “illegality” or, by contrast, gain (or at least attempt to gain) permanent residency status (see for e.g., Basok et al., 2014; Goldring & Landolt, 2021). For instance, one interviewee from Guatemala, who had been severely injured at work and was recovering in a Canadian hospital, told us he was seeking permanent residency status in Canada on humanitarian grounds. Meanwhile, another interviewee, recently terminated from an initial contract, was unemployed and searching for a new job in the second year of his two-year work permit. Still another migrant worker shared that he was working without status. After participating in the SAWP for twenty-one years, this interviewee was denied re-entry under the program: the Mexican Ministry of Labour and Social Provision, the government agency responsible for matching workers’ applications with employers’ demands, was no longer willing to send him to Canada—a decision this worker attributed to ageism on the part of both Canadian employers and the Mexican Ministry. Facing a desperate financial situation (having been robbed, assaulted, and

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faced extortion in Mexico), this worker felt he had no choice but to return to Canada. In contrast, two interviewees, who had originally come to Canada on temporary contracts, had succeeded in obtaining permanent residency. One worker, first authorized to enter and work under the AS, had applied for asylum after an unsuccessful attempt to cross into the US using irregular channels. Still another worker had left the farm at which he was permitted to work and was in the process of applying for an open work permit under a June 2019 program introduced to grant open work permits to workers determined to be “experiencing or at risk of abuse” (IRCC, 2020c). Finally, one interviewee had never participated in the TFWP program but had arrived in Canada as a tourist and was attempting to regularize her status at the time of the interview. Her father, a former SAWP worker, was also trying to transition to permanent residency. The sample of migrant workers that we interviewed was comprised primarily of men13 —unsurprisingly considering that men predominate in Canada’s agriculture labour market.14 In this context, only four of the thirty workers we interviewed self-defined as women. Seven workers interviewed had primary levels of education, 8 had secondary, and 14 had post-secondary. Sixteen interviewees were married, 9 were single, and 5 were divorced or separated. Interviewees’ ages ranged from 21 to 65 years old, although 36 was the average age. Only five interviewees reported having no children; among those that did, the number of children ranged from one to four. Interviewees’ occupations in their countries of origin included farmer, driver, carpenter, vendor, and construction worker. Among Guatemalan workers employed in Quebec, interviewees self-identified as either Kaqchiqel or Q’eqchi’. Some Mexican workers we interviewed acknowledged roots in Indigenous cultures and their mixed heritage, but none described themselves as Indigenous or as Indigenous language speakers. Importantly, migrant farmworkers’ major reasons for deciding to work in Canada were linked to the lack of jobs in their countries of origin, low wages for the jobs that they were able to obtain, and their desire to improve their own and/or their families’ living conditions. Many wanted 13 To our knowledge, the men we interviewed are cis. Throughout the book, when referring to interviewees, we adopt the same pronouns workers used to describe themselves. 14 For instance, only 7.6% of foreign workers in agriculture were women in 2017 (Zhang et al., 2021).

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to provide education to their children. The high value placed on remittances is an important reason why certain employment demands were normalized or tolerated, as we will discuss in the chapters to follow. Participation in the Canadian program is highly valued in the countries that are dependent on labour exportation. Information on how to join the Canadian program is shared among friends and relatives. Many Guatemalan workers told us that they found employment through the AS because friends or family members had recommended them. For Mexican workers, recommendations from family and friends were also important means of assisting them in securing admission to the SAWP program. When unable to join the program through regular channels migrants are willing to take further steps and, in fact, two workers admitted that they had paid a bribe to officials in recruitment agencies, a practice reported in previous studies, including our own,15 that have documented corruption within these organizations (Gabriel & Macdonald, 2017; Gesualdi-Fecteau & Nakache, 2017; Muir, 2015). With regard to size of farm, interviewees told us they were employed on farms with between 2 and 350 employees. Quebec-based interviewees mostly worked on smaller farms; six were dairy farms and seven were field fruits and vegetables farms. Interviewees located in Ontario tended to be employed on larger farms, typically in greenhouse producing tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. In Quebec, male interviewees generally worked with other men (only one male worker based in Quebec told us that his employer contracted female workers as well as male). The only Quebecbased interviewee who was a woman worked on a farm with 200 female employees. In terms of county of origin on specific Quebec farms, ten of the farms where interviewees worked employed Guatemalan migrants exclusively, while the remaining three Quebec-based farms employed both Guatemalan and Mexican workers. In Ontario, women tend to work in packing in greenhouses, and this was the case for most of the Ontario farms that employed migrant workers participating in our interviews. Only two farms of focus in Ontario employed Mexican workers exclusively, while the other farms employed Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, and Caribbean workers, and workers from other countries. Among interviewees, length of work in Canada ranged from one and thirty-one years. Those with the longest tenure in seasonal jobs in Canada 15 For example, Basok’s research project, funded by MITACS Globalink in summer 2019, conducted in Leamington among Guatemalan greenhouse workers.

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were employed under the SAWP, not surprisingly as the program allows for migrant workers from Mexico and Caribbean countries to participate year after year (as discussed in Chapter 2). For most, the farm that employed them at the time of the interview was the only farm on which they ever worked, and only a few workers, particularly those who have participated in the program the longest, had worked elsewhere before coming to work on the current farm. Migrant farmworkers that we interviewed shared, at times, different perceptions of their specific and general living and working conditions in Canada. It is also important to acknowledge that interviewees’ responses may relate to fear of job loss prompted by criticizing the program and/or their comfort level with interviewers. Accordingly, those interviewees no longer enrolled in the TFWP, either because they had obtained permanent residency or had been dismissed from their jobs, were, in the main, more open to discussing the problems they confronted in Canada. Similarly, those who had worked in Canada for many years and felt more secure in their employment, and less fearful of retribution from their employers for speaking out, were more likely to share concerns about their living or working conditions. At the same time, given migrant farmworkers’ insecure residency status in Canada, it is hardly surprising that some participants tended to be more cautious in their responses. In some cases, employers were in close proximity to the sites wherein interviews took place, making it difficult for the workers to express their views candidly. Nevertheless, the data we collected are rich, shedding critical light onto the lives and work experiences of the migrant farmworkers in Canada, prior to and within the context of the global pandemic. Analysis In analysing the data collected, we foreground the way workers narrate their experiences of work and COVID-19 to identify and analyse relationships and contradictions between policies and practices and migrant farmworkers’ lived experiences. In conducting open-ended in-depth interviews, we sought to listen to workers’ experiences of their work and residency, and to explore the nature of the social phenomena under study, instead of setting out to “test” hypotheses about them (Atkinson & Hammersley, 1994). Prior to conducting interviews, we created a guide

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informed by the job strain model16 ; this guide helped us encourage workers to speak about the unique dimensions of migrant farm work, such as housing conditions, that could possibly be overlooked in an analysis of job demands and resources (see Chapter 2). And yet, the open-ended nature of our approach to interviews pushed us beyond the job strain model towards an approach that recognizes employment strain from a transnational perspective; in other words, interview data help to reveal the need to enlarge dominant notions of job strain to reflect the experiences of interview subjects (i.e., migrant farmworkers).

Chapter Outline The four chapters comprising the remainder of this book develop and apply the notion of transnational employment strain informed by the foregoing multi-method approach. Devoted to elaborating our theoretical framework and applying it to the case of migrant farmworkers, Chapter 2, “Towards an Understanding of Transnational Employment Strain,” begins by conceptualizing transnational employment strain among precarious status workers—a holistic framework accounting for relations of social reproduction and production, citizenship status, and transnational relations. To situate this conceptual model, we then describe the institutional framework that guides the employment of migrant farmworkers in Canada, offering an overview of the nature, operation, and growth of temporary migrant work programs in agriculture, with attention to the SAWP and AS of Canada’s TFWP, and source country dynamic therein. Next, Chapters 3 and 4 document transnational employment strain among migrant farmworkers; whereas the former explores its parameters pre-pandemic, the latter considers the forms it took during the global health crisis. Chapter 3, “Transnational Employment Strain: A Longstanding Feature of Migrant Farm Work,” describes employment demands, such as occupational health hazards, including workplace harassment, and workplace pressure to increase productivity and reduce rest, confronting migrant workers enrolled in Canada’s two major TFWPs in agriculture in pre-pandemic times, both of which offer legal yet 16 The guide that structured our interviews was designed, in part, to respond to an initial call for studies by the International Labour Organization, which required authors to consider the job strain model in data gathering and analysis. For the final report of this research, see Vosko et al. 2022.

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insecure residency status (under fixed-term employer-tied contracts) to transnational workers engaged in an industry characterized by high levels of precarious employment that, for migrant farmworkers, is also associated with fear of repatriation. It also documents housing conditions that migrant farmworkers experience since, for these workers, separated from their households and communities across transnational space, housing is a major factor contributing to employment demands. At the same time, the chapter considers employment resources available to buffer such employment demands, demonstrating that control over the working environment, including housing, fair remuneration understood in transnational terms as the ability to improve the well-being of households through remittances, and employers’ expressions of appreciation are extremely limited among migrants with tenuous residency status living transnational lives despite government initiatives attempting to buffer employment demands in the 2000s and 2010s. It also demonstrates that federal government’s policy interventions to reduce excessive employment demands have been largely ineffective. Chapter 4, “Transnational Employment Strain in Pandemic Times: Magnified Strains and Insufficient Resources,” applies the book’s conception of transnational employment strain to consider how, and to what extent, the COVID-19 pandemic affected employment demands confronting migrant farmworkers and evaluate the resources at their disposal as a buffer. Unlike those who had the ability to work remotely from home, like many (disproportionately women and non-white) workers (Alook et al., 2021) working on the frontlines in Canada, migrant farmworkers were impacted by the spread of the virus in excess to their numbers; specifically, federal, provincial, and municipal government interventions to curtail the contagion and protect workers and the population at large were inadequate for migrant farmworkers, as evidenced by disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 positivity. Thus, while employment demands increased for this group (i.e., migrant farmworkers’ working and living environments posed greater risks to their physical and mental health and their employment became even more insecure than prior to the pandemic), employment resources remained limited, at best. Indeed, migrant farmworkers’ experiences during the pandemic illustrate four ways in which their employment strains increased: the pandemic introduced the new risk of COVID-19 transmission in workplaces and in employer-provided dwellings despite government efforts to protect these environments; it magnified the mental and physical health risks

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associated with employer-provided housing; it heightened pre-existing workers’ fears of employer reprisal and repatriation; and, it reduced earnings and/or introduced new threats of lost income. Moreover, the psychosocial impacts of certain pandemic health safety interventions were devastating for workers given their separation from the support of their families and communities across transnational space and the requirement that they dwell in typically overcrowded housing with their co-workers in Canada with whom they may have had no previous relationships—impacts magnified by the lack of social support for these “essential” workers in rural communities. Finally, Chapter 5 “Mitigating Transnational Employment Strain Among Migrant Farmworkers: Conceptual and Practical Strategies,” emphasizes how the working and living conditions endured by migrant farmworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic flowed from those established on farms prior to the emergence of the virus even though the global health crisis deepened the structural vulnerabilities they routinely experienced. In revealing the excessive level of employment strain confronting this essential transnational workforce, revelations of the pandemic arguably open space for mounting immigration reforms to grant these workers permanent residency status combined with other structural changes that would improve working conditions for agricultural workers. Such a change in policy would require a long-term advocacy, consultations, and planning. In the interim, we list other recommendations, most of which have been articulated by the migrant farmworkers in our study. They include: protecting workers from arbitrary dismissal contributing to prompt repatriation and/or the denial of future participation in Canada’s TFWPs, the implementation of regular and unannounced labour inspections on farms, the creation and enforcement of national housing standards, improvements in wages, and thoroughgoing access to income support as well as opportunities for full and meaningful access to a wide range of jobs and public services facilitating transitions.

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IRCC. (2020c). Open work permits for vulnerable workers [R207.1 – A72]. International Mobility Program. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-ref ugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-man uals/temporary-residents/foreign-workers/vulnerable-workers.html IRCC. (2022). Canada—Work permit holders by program, country of citizenship and year in which permit(s) became effective, 2002–2021. Customized Data Request CR-22–0007. On file with authors. Joffe, A. (2021). COVID-19: Rethinking the lockdown groupthink. Frontiers in Public Health, 9, 1–25. Lau, H., Khosrawipour, V., Kocbach, P., Mikolajczyk, A., Schubert, J., Bania, J., & Khosrawipour, T. (2020). The positive impact of lockdown in Wuhan on containing the COVID-19 outbreak in China. Journal of Travel Medicine, 27 (3), 1–7. Lauzardo, M., Kovacevich, N., Dennis, A., Myers, P., Flocks, J., & Morris, J. G., Jr. (2021). An outbreak of COVID-19 among H-2A temporary agricultural workers. American Journal of Public Health, 111(4), 571–573. Marotta, S. (2020, December 4). Ontario, Quebec see COVID-19 outbreaks at workplaces climb. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/ canada/article-ontario-quebec-see-covid-19-outbreaks-at-workplaces-climb/ Meza, K. (2020). Infections de COVID-19 dans les fermes du Québec. Le Devoir. https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/581247/coronavirus-infectionsdans-les-fermes-du-quebec Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC). (2021). Migrant farm worker dies of COVID in government mandated quarantine. https://migrantworke rsalliance.org/press/5thfarmworkerdeathmay2021/ Mirchandani, K., Vosko, L., Soni-Sinha, U., Perry, A., Noack, A., Hall, R., & Gellatly, M. (2018). Methodological K/nots: Designing research on the enforcement of labor standards. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 12(2), 133–147. Mojtehedzadeh, S. (2020). Migrant workers with COVID-19 must not be allowed to work, health experts say—As infected worker count surpasses 1,000. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/business/2020/07/07/hea lth-experts-urge-concerted-government-action-to-tackle-migrant-worker-out breaks.html Mojtehedzadeh, S., & Keung, N. (2021). Fifth migrant worker dies in quarantine. Is ‘jurisdictional football’ over COVID regulations to blame? Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/06/16/fifth-migrant-wor ker-dies-in-quarantine-is-jurisdictional-football-over-covid-regulations-toblame.html Mojtehedzadeh, S., & Mendleson, R. (2021). ‘Confidential:’ After months of calls for a public inquest into the COVID-19 deaths of migrant farm workers, Ontario coroner’s office has launched a secretive review. Toronto

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Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2021/02/12/confident ial-after-months-of-calls-for-a-public-inquest-into-the-covid-19-deaths-of-mig rant-farm-workers-ontario-coroners-office-has-launched-a-secretive-review. html Muir, G. (2015). Unmapping recruitment: An exploration of Canada’s temporary foreign worker program in Guatemala. Master’s thesis, Concordia University. Palumbo, L. (2022). Exploitation in the agri-food sector in Europe: A comparative analysis of the impact of migration and labour regimes in producing migrants’ vulnerabilities. European Journal of Migration and Law, 24, 287– 312. Patton, M. (2015). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (4th ed.). Sage Publications. Powell, N. (2020, March 18). Travel edict could sow bitter harvest; About 60,000 migrant workers come to Canada each year for spring planting. National Post. https://financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/broccolihas-to-be-hand-cut-travel-limits-squeezing-flow-of-seasonal-workers-to-fruitvegetable-farms?_ga=2.133226382.1275244708.1661786106-296224943. 1661786106&_gl=1*1ef69ym*_ga*Mjk2MjI0OTQzLjE2NjE3ODYxMDY. *_ga_72QH41ZTMR*MTY2MTc4NjEwNi4xLjEuMTY2MTc4NjExNC41 Mi4wLjA Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). (2020). Changes to Canada summer jobs program to help businesses and young Canadians affected by COVID-19. https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/04/08/changes-canadasummer-jobs-program-help-businesses-and-young Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). (2022). COVID-19 daily epidemiology update. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiologicalsummary-covid-19-cases.html Public Health Ontario (PHO). (2021). COVID-19 in Ontario: Focus on November 21, 2021 to November 27, 2021. https://files.ontario.ca/moh-covid19-weekly-epi-report-en-2021-11-27.pdf Public Heath Ontario (PHO). (2022a). COVID-19 in Ontario: Focus on February 27, 2022 to March 5, 2022. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/ media/Documents/nCoV/epi/2022/03/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-rep ort-mar-5.pdf?sc_lang=en Public Health Ontario (PHO). (2022b). COVID-19 in Ontario: Focus on July 17, 2022 to July 23, 2022 (Week 29). https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/ media/Documents/nCoV/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?sc_ lang=en Schneider, J., & Götte, M. (2022). Meat plants and strawberry fields forever? Precarious migrant labour in the German agri-food sector before and after COVID-19. European Journal of Migration and Law, 24, 265–286.

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Thomas, K. (2022, July 7). Quebec is in the 7th wave, but no COVID-19 restrictions expected: public health. Montreal Gazette. https://montrealg azette.com/news/local-news/quebec-is-entering-7th-wave-but-covid-19-isunder-control-public-health Vosko, L. F., & Spring, C. (2021). COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada and the crisis of migrant farmworkers’ social reproduction: Transnational labour and the need for greater accountability among receiving states. Journal of International Migration and Integration. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-02100905-2 Vosko, L., Basok, T., Spring, C., Candiz, G., & George, G. (2022). Understanding migrant farmworkers’ health and well-being during the global COVID-19 pandemic in Canada: Toward a transnational conceptualization of employment strain. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/14/8574/pdf Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). (2021). COVID related claims— Employers. Request ID 5617. Freedom of information request. On-file with authors. Yourex-West, H. (2021). Inside the oilsands site that has seen Canada’s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreak. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/ 7852937/oil-sands-site-canada-largest-workplace-covid-outbreak/ Zhang, Y., Ostrovsky, Y., & Arsenault A. (2021). Foreign workers in the Canadian agriculture industry. Economic and Social Reports, Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/36-28-0001/2021004/art icle/00002-eng.htm

CHAPTER 2

Rethinking Employment Strain Through a Transnational Lens: Centring Migrant Workers’ Lives

Abstract This chapter introduces the theoretical framework adopted in this book and applied to the case of migrant farmworkers. It begins by elaborating the conception of transnational employment strain among precarious status workers—a holistic framework accounting for relations of social reproduction and production, citizenship status, and transnational relations—that builds on, yet departs from, foregoing scholarship on employment strain. To situate this new conceptual model, the chapter also describes the institutional framework guiding the employment of migrant farmworkers in Canada by offering an overview of the nature, operation, and growth of temporary migrant work programs in agriculture, with attention to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and Agricultural Stream (AS) of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and source country dynamics therein. Keywords Employment strain · Transnational · Temporary Foreign Worker Program · Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program · Agricultural Stream · COVID-19

The transnational employment strain framework we employ in this book draws on, yet departs from, the notions of job strain, understood as © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 L. F. Vosko et al., Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic, Politics of Citizenship and Migration, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17704-0_2

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a balance between job demands and job resources (Bakker & Demerouti, 2006). Job demands are present in all occupations and can impact workers physical health and mental well-being. Bakker and Demerouti (2006: 312) describe job demands as “physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of the job that require sustained physical and/or psychological (cognitive and emotional) effort or skills.” Job demands include dimensions of workload, such as unfavourable work environments, requirements to work extended hours, high work pressure, and tense interactions with others, whether clients, co-workers, or supervisors. Such demands on-the-job produce job strains, unless balanced by certain job resources granting workers some degree of control at work, such as control over one’s workplace environment, participation in decisionmaking, fair renumeration, job security, opportunity for promotion, or co-worker support (Bakker & Demerouti, 2006; see Fig. 2.1).

Fig. 2.1 Job strain (Source Vosko et al., 2022a)

The job demand model is valuable insofar as it addresses the relationship between workers’ well-being and the balance of power involved in paid employment (assumed to be a single job), attending to the dynamic forces contributing to stable or fair, as opposed to unjust or imbalanced experiences on the job. Farm work, for instance, is associated with dirty, dangerous, and difficult job demands (Bakker & Demerouti, 2006), such as exposure to occupational hazards, pressure to maintain high levels of productivity, long weekly hours, and job insecurity. Moreover, job

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resources (Bakker & Demerouti, 2006; Karasek, 1979), such as fair remuneration, job security, and opportunities for promotion, which can serve as buffers against the impact of job demands on “job strain” (Karasek, 1979; Karasek & Theorell, 1990) available to farmworkers, are highly constrained. However, because the job strain model assumes a citizen worker living in a household distinct from the employer’s premises and working in a single nation state, normally, at a fixed workplace, and holding a full-time permanent job complete with social entitlements and statutory benefits comprising a social wage—a standard employment relationship, so to speak (Vosko, 2010)—it fails to account for key factors contributing to strain.

Fig. 2.2 From job strain to transnational employment strain

As Fig. 2.2 illustrates, a framework for analysing the relationship between migrant farmworkers’ health and well-being must also attend to these workers’ fixed-term seasonal contracts, and their precarious residency status in the receiving country. As they are compelled to leave their families behind, it also needs to take account of workers’ transnational lives. Finally, the transnational employment strain approach undertaken herein also views policies and policy interventions as either employment demands or employment resources that impact employment strains. Thus,

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to generate a deeper understanding of the nature of migrant farmworkers’ lived work and residency experiences, we first describe the institutional context surrounding the recruitment of migrant farmworkers in Canada and then outline the transnational employment strain model advanced and applied in the chapters to follow.

Migrant Farmworkers in Canada: The Institutional Context In referring to migrant farmworkers in Canada, we include both legally authorized migrants entering under temporary labour migration programs, as well as migrants labouring without legal status. Data documenting how many workers are labouring without valid work permits in Canadian agriculture is limited (Goldring & Landolt, 2021), but there are thousands of “undocumented” migrants present in Canada; some estimates claim that up to 2,000 workers without legal status are located in Ontario farming region Windsor-Essex alone (Gatehouse, 2020). However, a majority of migrant farmworkers in agriculture, are legally authorized and enter Canada principally through one of two subprograms of the TFWP designed to manage migration, the SAWP and the AS. Legal status under the TFWP can, in theory, offer opportunities for enhancing resources for migrant farmworkers; for instance, migrant farmworkers labouring under TFWP may be eligible for injured workers’ compensation as well as provincial public health insurance. It is widely documented, however, that the institutional context in which migrant farmworkers are granted legal but temporary and employer-tied legal status in Canada can have a negative impact on health and well-being on the job, off the job, and during periods of unemployment in myriad ways (see for e.g., Caxaj & Cohen, 2019; Colindres et al., 2021; Hennebry et al., 2016; McLaughlin, 2009). In other words, as we ague herein and elsewhere, the institutional context shaping migrant farmworkers’ permit condition fosters differential inclusion, a term first used in anti-racist feminist scholarship (e.g., Crenshaw, 1990) and more recently embraced by migration scholars to describe forms of inclusion that “involve various degrees of subordination, rule, discrimination, segmentation, etc.” (Casas-Cortes et al., 2015: 156; see also Könönen, 2018; Vosko, 2020). The TFWP allows Canadian employers, who claim that they are experiencing chronic labour shortages and cannot find citizen workers to fill positions, to hire migrant workers for temporary employment in Canada.

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The TFWP originated through bilateral agreements Canada negotiated with specific states, and is based on labour market tests, known contemporaneously as Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs). LMIAs are used by Canada’s national ministries responsible for labour and employment (i.e., Employment and Social Development Canada or ESDC and Service Canada), to evaluate whether hiring foreign nationals will negatively impact their labour markets. This determination is required for the issuance of a work permit by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). These tests thereby serve to justify the state-sanctioned migration of workers to address so-called labour scarcities (Hennebry & Preibisch, 2012; Sassen, 1980; Sharma, 2006) but are criticized for their prioritization of employer demands for labour over worker protection (Marsden et al., 2021). In early 2000s Canada, the TFWP was the predominant temporary migrant work program. But since the mid-2010s, the number of TFWP work permit holders has declined. As Marsden et al. (2021) argue, this decline is linked to emerging concerns about the protection of workers, as well as pressures to guard against migrant workers undercutting citizen workers’ wages and employment opportunities, or protectionism (Marsden et al., 2021).1 And yet, even though the TFWP as a whole contracted during this period, the SAWP and the AS grew slightly on account of the still significant employer demand (see Fig. 2.1). In this context, migrant farmworkers came to represent a significant proportion of its TFWP; for instance, AS and SAWP participants accounted for 62% of all TFWPs in 2020. The SAWP is Canada’s largest and most longstanding program under the TFWP, and has operated continuously since 1966 to meet agricultural employers’ need for low-wage, flexible labour on a seasonal basis. It enables circular or season-to-season migration and functions through agreements between the governments of Canada and Mexico and Canada and Caribbean states; and as Table 2.1 shows, Mexico and Jamaica are the predominant source countries of origin for SAWP participants. 1 Meanwhile, decreasing numbers of TFWP permit-holders occurred alongside the expansion of Canada’s less tightly regulated International Mobility Program, which offers temporary typically open work permits to recent graduates and postsecondary students, spouses of students and skilled workers, specialized knowledge workers, working holidaymakers, and intercompany transferees etc.—subgroups also often able to access pathways to permanent residency (on the precarious nature of certain subprograms of the IMP, see Vosko, 2020).

170 145 175 100 45 20 – 25,720

190

140 185 110 65 25 – 25,045

180 140 130 65 45 0 27,515

210

18,560 7150 1035

2013

200 165 115 60 30 0 29,795

210

20,285 7705 1025

2014

230 170 110 45 25 – 30,735

225

21,425 7730 775

2015

210 175 125 65 25 – 34,130

240

23,910 8580 795

2016

Source Vosko et al. (2022b), using IRCC (2022) data a “–” denotes values between 0 and 5, which are withheld by IRCC for privacy reasons

17,815 6370 880

16,675 6655 1000

Mexico Jamaica Trinidad and Tobago, Republic of St. Vincent and the Grenadines St. Lucia Barbados Dominica Grenada St. Kitts-Nevis Antigua and Barbuda SAWP Total

2012

2011

Source country

270 165 130 90 20 – 35,175

285

24,675 8745 795

2017

185 180 105 120 15 – 35,820

285

25,100 9050 780

2018

150 165 125 110 – 0 36,820

320

25,940 9175 835

2019

245

24,295 8830 490

2021

170 130 120 100 100 105 110 60 – – 31,460 34,270

310

22,180 8020 450

2020

Table 2.1 Work permit holders under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) of the TFWP, by country of citizenship (all 10 participating countries), 2011–2021a

30 L. F. VOSKO ET AL.

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Bilaterally negotiated agreements prescribe terms and conditions under which migrant farmworkers from participating countries migrate to Canada temporarily. Temporary work permits provided under the SAWP are also employer-tied and allow growers to terminate and effectively repatriate workers prior to the expiration of their work permits if work is deemed insufficient or for other reasons (e.g., illness or injury) (Basok et al., 2014; Binford, 2013; Satzewich, 2007; Vosko, 2019). SAWP permits allow participants to stay in Canada for a maximum of 8 months, while also permitting circularity or rotation season-to-season. In this context, SAWP participants are technically enabled to return year-afteryear, although certain barriers linked to their closed work permits can prevent future participation. Nevertheless, many, including a number of participants in our sample, take part in the program long term. Quite uniquely, unlike many other international mobility and temporary migrant work programs, SAWP does not allow for spousal or family accompaniment, even though its recruitment policies prioritize workers with dependents (Rajkumar et al., 2012). As some scholars have noted, this recruitment strategy works to ensure participants’ annual return to countries of origin (McLaughlin, 2010; McLaughlin et al., 2017; Wells et al., 2014). Within this context, conditions of entry under the SAWP produce precarious migration statuses (see for e.g., Goldring & Landolt, 2011). In addition to the SAWP, Canadian growers may recruit migrant labour through the AS.2 Like the SAWP, this younger but rapidly growing program, only offers temporary work permits to migrants labouring in primary agricultural work (i.e., the production and harvesting of any items on the National Commodities List) (ESDC, 2021a). To secure work permits under the AS, employers must also obtain a favourable LMIA to demonstrate the need for temporary foreign labour. Unlike the SAWP, however, the AS is not regulated by bilateral agreements between Canada and sending countries. As a result, delivery and oversight of the AS involves less mediation on the part of government, including in the recruitment of migrant labour. In this context, the highly de-regulated AS presents participants with unique

2 The AS is an outgrowth of The Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training (NOC C and D) (HRSDC, 2011), which originated in 2002 and extended to agricultural workers in 2011. This stream is also referred to as Pilot Project for Hiring Foreign Workers in Occupations that Require Lower Levels of Formal Training as well as the Low-Skill Pilot (see for e.g., CIC, 2013).

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challenges that can heighten precariousness. For instance, private recruitment agencies play a central role in recruiting migrant workers through the AS, and these agencies are documented to engage in questionable and illegal activities, including the sale of fake visas, charging workers’ recruitment fees, and the misrepresentation of jobs (see for e.g., Gabriel & Macdonald, 2017; Gesualdi-Fecteau & Nakache, 2017). AS participants can receive work permits valid for up to 24 months and may apply for a new permit if they wish to continue working in Canada and secure a job offer. And while the AS allows for a longer maximum duration of stay (recall the SAWP only allows for an 8-month stay), work permits issued to AS participants, like the SAWP, offer no option for spousal or family accompaniment and are tied to specific employers. In this context, both SAWP and AS participants cannot bring family members to Canada during periods of employment, and cannot circulate freely in Canada’s labour market, facing significant constraints even when seeking to transfer between agricultural employers (see for e.g., ESDC, 2021b: XV, 1–3). These conditions produce considerable “strains” beyond the job pertaining to residency status and employment relationship insofar as temporary work permits conditions serve to undermine worker voice, and to inhibit any behavior that might characterize migrant farmworkers as “trouble-makers” (Binford, 2009). Unlike the SAWP, the AS provides permits to workers from any country. As Table 2.2 shows, Guatemala is the top source country for the AS, and participation of workers from Mexico, India, and Jamaica rose substantially in the late 2010s. Between 2011 and 2015, the first five years of operation for the AS, annual numbers of AS permit holders were relatively stable, ranging from a low of 8,490 to a high of 9,800. However, the numbers doubled between 2015 and 2019, reaching nearly 20,000 permit holders, over half of whom were citizens of Guatemala (see Table 2.2). Notably, as Fig. 2.3 reveals, a growing proportion of migrant farmworkers in Canada are entering under the AS. For instance, in 2014, 24% (9,565) of all legally authorized migrant farmworkers issued new work permits entered Canada under the AS, while fully 76.5% (29,795) entered through the SAWP; by 2021, 44% (26,730) of all legally authorized migrant farmworkers entered under the AS stream, whereas 56% (34,270) entered under the SAWP. The magnitude of growth in the AS is significant for two reasons: first, in comparison to the SAWP, the AS and its conditions are underexplored in scholarship. Nor are the differences

4430 390 50 1275 575 275 25 410 200 65 8490

Guatemala Mexico India Philippines Thailand Jamaica Vietnam Honduras Nicaragua Ukraine Total AS

4805 705 60 1015 635 335 35 220 215 205 9120

2012 5255 655 85 1170 610 375 5 345 235 240 9800

2013 5370 445 175 920 555 370 0 275 285 280 9565

2014 5645 495 260 600 490 250 – 355 290 205 9305

2015 6465 875 515 655 640 285 10 280 295 185 10,915

2016

Source Vosko et al. (2022b), using IRCC (2022) data a “–” Denotes values between 0 and 5, which are withheld by IRCC for privacy reasons

2011 8115 995 1165 605 580 170 80 325 285 110 12,875

2017 9575 1755 2285 575 710 620 230 380 315 170 17,310

2018

11,470 2030 2195 755 705 575 250 360 350 175 19,890

2019

11,945 3180 1190 775 785 720 370 420 255 165 20,710

2020

Work permit holders under AS of the TFWP, by country of citizenship (top 10 only), 2011–2021a

Source country

Table 2.2

14,975 4645 1085 1065 850 840 535 480 370 265 26,730

2021

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between the two subprograms well-covered in the media or addressed in public discourse. Second, since the AS does not require bilaterally negotiated employment contracts, it offers lower levels of labour protection and potential employment resources by comparison to the SAWP, the subprogram that is touted as a model of managed migration because it offers sending states a degree of input and control, allowing them to intervene when their workers are facing unsafe and unfair working conditions. For instance, in mid-June 2020, Mexico paused sending farmworkers to Canada under the program to pressure the Canadian government to act on the many on-farm outbreaks and deaths of its citizens from COVID19 during first wave of the virus. At the time, it also sought assurances from the Canadian federal government that Canada and the provinces would institute more protective measures directed at Mexican nationals working and living on farm to prevent more outbreaks and unnecessary deaths.3 In light of the threat posed by Mexico’s action to employer access to migrant farmworkers, principally SAWP participants, Canada’s federal government responded promptly. Accordingly, on June 21, 2020, Mexico and Canada reached an agreement to “ensure adequate access to health, inspections and timely medical care for workers” and improve “sanitary conditions” for Mexican SAWP workers (STPS, 2020). Yet, this bilateral “model program” is seriously flawed (see for instance, Basok, 2002; Hennebry & Preibisch, 2012; Vosko, 2019). In fact, sending state officials may opt to trade worker protections for broader economic and diplomatic concerns including a strong commitment to maintaining good relations with Canadian policymakers operating in the interest of agricultural production, as well as with employers directly. Furthermore, sending state reliance on foreign remittances motivates policies encouraging labour exportation, constraining state officials’ actions to improve conditions of work and residency, and the enforcement of existing rights in the receiving state.4 Still, despite its limitations, SAWP provides a certain degree of protection to the workers participating in this program. 3 While Mexico expressed confidence in the rules in place in Canada, its Ambassador characterized a lack of enforcement as the major problem, noting that “the reason why there have been infections and sadly three deaths now is because on some farms these rules are not being followed,” a notable admonishment given the sending state’s longstanding reliance on farmworkers’ remittances (CTV News, 2020). 4 As two illustrative examples in the Canadian context, McLaughlin (2009: 196–197) documents sending state consular officials’ role in screening workers for illnesses, including HIV, before accepting them into the program, and Vosko (2016) analyses a 2014 legal

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By contrast, AS participants lack the very possibility of formalized sending state intervention (albeit deeply compromised). Informed by interviews of a relatively large number of AS participants, this book seeks to augment understanding of the employment strains these workers face with the goal of identifying broad-based interventions, beyond necessary reforms to the SAWP, that ensure that all migrant farmworkers have access to a broader range of substantive rights and protections rather than exacerbate differentiation and stratification. 1,40,000 1,20,000 1,00,000 80,000 60,000 40,000 20,000 0

Total Agricutlure

TFWP

SAWP

AS

Other Agricultural Workers*

Fig. 2.3 Work permit holders in Canada by year in which the permits became effective, 2002–2021 (Source Vosko & Spring, 2021 utilizing IRCC, 2022 data). *The “Other Agricultural Workers” stream includes high and low-wage agricultural workers working in production that is not included on the National Commodity List; the participation rate in this program has steadily declined since 2011 (when the AS was first introduced) and has sat at zero since 2018

Transnational Employment Strain In this book, we take up an expanded notion of “employment strain” to analyse the effects of the global pandemic on migrant farmworkers. case heard by BC’s Labour Relations Board that documents consular officials’ role in blacklisting SAWP workers involved in union organizing.

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As a concept, employment strain emerges from precarious employment scholarship (see especially Lewchuk et al., 2006; see also Vosko, 2006), and extends the job strain model to include employment relationships in order to create a more inclusive framework capable of expanding beyond the assumption of a full-time continuous job with a single employer at a fixed worksite in order to attend to the strains associated with part-time and/or contract-based employment, as well as other forms of employment deviating from this employment model. Moreover, in addition to conditions of employment, employment strain also centres household insecurity, and employment supports, while attending to axes of differentiation linked to social location, and migration/citizenship status in particular (see especially Vosko, 2006). Not only are migrant farmworkers employed on fixed-term employerspecific contracts, their precarious residency status , or what some term “precarious legal status” (Goldring et al., 2009) is a constitutive feature of the employment strain they experience. This status is necessarily linked to other elements of migrant farmworkers’ social location—namely their country of origin and the immigration category under which they are admitted to Canada. In Canada, policies regulating migration for employment in agriculture are deeply rooted in racialized and colonial dynamics, which not long ago admitted migrants explicitly on the basis of racial categories (Satzewich, 1989, 1991; Sharma, 2006). For migrant farm workers from Latin America and the Caribbean, these policies continue to shape conditions under which they are authorized to stay in Canada (Andre, 1990; Chartrand & Vosko, 2020; Smith, 2015). Admitted on fixed-term employer-specific employment contracts, migrant workers are rendered precarious due to an ever-present threat of repatriation to one’s country of origin, otherwise known as “deportability” (Basok et al., 2014; Vosko, 2013, 2019). Their “deportability” heightens levels of employer control (Binford, 2009) and impacts workers’ well-being in a multitude of ways. For example, migrant farmworkers may be reluctant to file complaints or voicing concerns around safety issues on account of fears of employer reprisal prompting repatriation (see for e.g., Basok et al., 2014; Vosko, 2013, 2019). Similarly, sick and/or injured workers may conceal their ailments out of fear of medical repatriation as well as possible exclusion from future employment contracts on account of presumed injuries or poor health (Hennebry & Williams, 2015; Orkin et al., 2014). As workers admitted on a temporary contract, and not as permanent residents, migrant farmworkers lack access to language

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training or settlement services. Language barriers, combined with the lack of access to community resources, can limit migrant farmworkers’ ability to establish clear lines of communication with employers and managers, undermining their ability to call on employers to address safety (Basok & George, 2021). Migrant farmworkers’ employment relationships and conditions of residency also have the potential to distort intended effects of employment resources assuming citizen workers. For instance, legally authorized migrant farmworkers contribute to Canada’s Employment Insurance program, offering income support to workers in instances of illness, unemployment, or parental leave. Yet these workers’ seasonal- and contract-based employment and precarious residency status compromise their ability to access benefits provided via the program. Consequently, migrant farmworkers’ inclusion exacerbates their employment strain insofar as premium paying squeezes their already low earning levels in the absence of the opportunity for recouping potential earnings losses through received income benefits in periods of unemployment (Vosko & Spring, 2021). Furthermore, distinct from the job strain model, the employment strain perspective also accounts for demands and resources cast typically as beyond the domains of paid work (i.e., within the domains of households and communities), demands and resources related to relations of distribution (Vosko, 2006), such as household incomes derived from earnings, the availability of extended health benefits, and presence or absence of dependents in household (Lewchuk et al., 2006). Importantly, then, this framework attends to the relationship between the production of goods and services in the world of paid employment and social reproduction, or the daily (e.g., provision of food, clothing, and shelter) and intergenerational (e.g., income support, workplace health and safety, and health care over the lifecycle) material and social supports that enable people to engage in the labour process. It is widely recognized that the organization of social reproduction is deeply gendered and racialized. Yet, for migrant workers, it is also necessarily transnational. Accordingly, applying an employment strain framework to the case of migrant farmworkers necessarily entails accounting for this transnational organization of workers’ social reproduction. More broadly, at a fundamental level, arguably migration for employment on a temporary basis involves the misallocation of resources necessary for sustainable processes of social reproduction (Burawoy, 1976; Sassen, 1981; see also Vosko & Spring, 2021). For instance, temporary migrant work programs

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in agriculture in Canada rely on a policy framework that externalizes a sizable proportion of resources associated with reproducing and sustaining workers and their families onto migrant workers’ countries of origin, their families, and workers themselves. This externalization is achieved, in part, by the enforcement of limitations on participants’ duration of stay in the receiving country as well as family accompaniment, in tandem with, on account of their precarious residency status, exclusion from full access to social and statutory benefits which serve as employment resources, available to citizens and permanent residents. Within this context, migrant farmworkers’ long-term or intergenerational social reproduction occurs entirely in their countries of origin (typically Caribbean and Latin American countries), whereas daily processes of social reproduction, including periods of rest and socialization, preparation of food, but also provision of health care and social supports if paid employment is interrupted, takes place only partly in receiving states (Vosko & Spring, 2021). This particular organization of migrant farmworkers’ social reproduction, organized on the basis of national sovereignty, helps to define their role as workers in Canadian agriculture: namely, to address a shortage of structurally disempowered low-wage temporary labour in an essential industry (Burawoy, 1976). Mindful of this organization of social reproduction, embraced by sending states, such as Canada, to uphold national sovereignty, we challenge tendency of methodological nationalism (Wimmer & Glick Schiller, 2002) within the political economy of migration literature by reaching beyond the national scale (Katz, 2001). As migration scholars have illustrated, migrants’ lives are often embedded in transnational social fields (Glick Schiller et al., 1992) or spaces (Faist, 2000) that link together country of origin with country of (temporary) residence; such transnational spaces, which may emanate from strategies for survival and/or social and economic participation, are often created and sustained through familial relationships, but may also involve cultural and political ties and commitments that reproduce migrants’ identities, sense of belonging, and well-being. Prevailing analyses of the internationalization of social reproductive labour reveal how non-white women migrant workers, often employed as domestic workers, migrate abroad to perform essential care work for citizen workers in the receiving state, while simultaneously contributing from afar to the economic and social well-being of their households (see for e.g., Arat-Koç, 2018; Castellani & Martín-Díaz, 2019; Parreñas, 2002). Similarly, for migrant

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farmworkers who come to Canada on temporary work permits and leave their families and communities behind, employment demands and resources do not take shape exclusively at the national level but, rather, need to be understood within their transnational context. Participants in Canada’s TFWP are not permitted to be accompanied by family members. Accordingly, migrant farmworkers must maintain relationships (social and economic) with their families/household members and communities across transnational space. These transnational ties can serve as both a source of augmented employment demand (e.g., toll that separation and lack of social support take emotionally) and also an employment resource (e.g., remittances providing for improved standards of living).5 That is, the poverty and underemployment that many workers face in their home countries propel them to seek jobs elsewhere, including in Canada (Barrón, 2021; Basok, 2002; Binford, 2013). The fact that migrant farmworkers improve their families’ standards of living through remittances (Basok, 2003; Itzigsohn, 1995; Latapi, 2012) can thus be understood as the major emotional and material “resource” that, to a certain degree, provides a buffer against excessive job demands. This resource comes at the cost, however, of long-term separation from their families, and its associated strains on familial/household relationships, as well as the negative impact separation can have on the migrants’ emotional and psychological health (Preibisch & Encalada Grez, 2013) and that of their transnational families, particularly their children’s physical and psychological health (McLaughlin et al., 2017). Reliance on remittances may also affect migrant farmworkers’ ability to respond to other employment demands. Separated from their households in countries of origin, migrant farmworkers are, moreover, compulsorily placed in housing provided by employers, typically shared with co-workers with whom may not have prior relationships. Conditions of housing, as well as maintaining both work and residence-based relations with their co-workers, thus represent additional employment demands that can take a toll on migrant farmworkers’ health and well-being, as described in the ensuing chapters.

5 The ways in which transnational relationships function as both sources of increased

employment demand and also employment resources among migrant farmworkers is akin to how Tsui et al. (2021), critique the applicability of the job strain model for home care aides, underlining its failure to account for the intrinsic rewards and pride in care work and effectively advocating adopting a more relational approach to conceptualizing the rewards of caring labour vis-à-vis job stress.

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Fig. 2.4 Transnational employment strain. *Italics highlight demands and resources conceptualized as central to transnational employment strain herein (Source Vosko et al., 2022a)

Given the transnational character of migrant workers’ lives, analysis of migrant farmworkers’ demands and resources arising from household relationships also needs to account for their transnational lives and relationships arising from their (often circular or rotational) migratory movements. As Fig. 2.4 illustrates, this expansive framework leads us to employ a broader understanding of demands and resources that we label employment demands and employment resources contributing to employment strain, or the risks to workers’ physical and psychosocial (including emotional and mental) well-being involved in employment. Finally, extending the employment strain framework to account for the structural context, we suggest that this perspective ought to include policies that either reduce or amplify employment strains (see Fig. 2.3). Thus,

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to evaluate the forces shaping migrant farmworkers’ health and wellbeing, we attend to the intersection of precarious residency status and transnational lives, alongside the particular public policies adopted at the federal and provincial levels before and prevailing during the COVID-19, as well as further interventions at its height, that can exacerbate some employment demands, even while attempting to provide some employment resources, albeit unsuccessfully, as discussed in Chapters 3 and 4.

How a Global Health Crisis Exacerbated Employment Strain Among Essential Migrant Farmworkers Throughout the global health pandemic, employment demands intrinsic to migrant farm work in Canada persisted and, in some instances, intensified despite efforts by government to better protect essential migrant farmworkers from the transmission of the virus. The COVID-19 crisis thus revealed gaps between employment demands and resources among these workers. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the Canadian federal government publicly recognized migrant farmworkers as essential to Canada’s national social reproduction (e.g., via their import in protecting the national food supply) and production (e.g., the survival of the Canadian agricultural industry), and thus exempted this vital transnational workforce from international travel restrictions. In this context, as Chapter 4 shall show, migrant farmworkers were subjected to new and intensified employment demands further compromising their well-being and autonomy in the name of fulfilling their role in maintaining the national food supply and Canadian agriculture. At the same time, many resources integral to their own social reproduction in the immediate, medium, and long term were limited and those that prevailed often had contradictory effects (i.e., by increasing employment demands). As we also demonstrate, in addition to subjecting migrant farmworkers’ to the risks associated with COVID-19 transmission and infection in the workplace, the pandemic augmented mental and physical health risks associated with employer-provided housing, exacerbating employment demands linked to workers’ transnational lives and relationships.

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Moreover, it heightened pre-existing fears of employer reprisal and repatriation among workers, while introducing new threats of reduced earnings and/or income loss. Accordingly, a transnational employment strain approach underscores how pre-existing immigration and labour laws, policies, and practices, operating alongside public policy interventions to improve access to social and economic resources for migrant farmworkers that emerged during the pandemic helped magnify such strains among these transnational workers. To evaluate whether, and, if so, the extent to which, employment resources, pre-existing and pandemic-specific, buffer these demands, it is moreover necessary to centre precarious residency status and transnational nature of migrant farmworkers’ lives. Arguably, as Chapters 3 and 4 will show, attending to such components of employment strain among migrant farmworkers in transnational, rather than exclusively national, terms reveals the limitations of prevailing resources while rendering their effects more visible and indeed more complex.

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Vosko, L. F. (2020). Temporary labour migration by any other name: Differential inclusion under Canada’s ‘new’ international mobility regime. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 48(1), 129–152. Vosko, L. F., & Spring, C. (2021). COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada and the crisis of migrant farmworkers’ social reproduction: Transnational labour and the need for greater accountability among receiving states. Journal of International Migration and Integration. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-02100905-2 Vosko, L. F., Basok, T., Spring, C., Candiz, G., & George, G. (2022a). Understanding migrant farmworkers’ health and well-being during the global COVID-19 pandemic in Canada: Toward a transnational conceptualization of employment strain. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(14), 8574. Vosko, L., Basok, T., Spring, C., Candiz, G., & George, G. (2022b). COVID-19 among migrant farmworkers in Canada: Employment strain in a transnational context, ILO Working Paper 79, https://www.ilo.org/global/publications/ working-papers/WCMS_856495/lang--en/index.htm Wells, D., McLaughlin, J., Lyn, A., & Mendiburo, A. D. (2014). Sustaining precarious transnational families: The significance of remittances from Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. Just Labour, 22, 144–167. Wimmer, A., & Glick Schiller, N. (2002). Methodological nationalism and beyond: Nation–state building, migration and the social sciences. Global Networks, 2(4), 301–334.

CHAPTER 3

Transnational Employment Strain: A Longstanding Feature of Migrant Farm Work Abstract In this chapter, we utilize the transnational employment strain model, outlined in Chapter 2, to examine working and living conditions of migrant farmworkers in two Canadian provinces, Ontario and Quebec, before the COVID-19 pandemic. We demonstrate that wellprior to the pandemic migrant farmworkers faced employment demands such as occupational health hazards, including workplace harassment, and workplace pressure to increase productivity and extend their working hours. Separated from their households and communities across transnational space, migrant farmworkers have long been placed in employerprovided housing, often located on farm or adjacent to the worksite and shared with their co-workers. Under these circumstances, housing can be regarded as an extension of worksite, and housing conditions, particularly the overcrowding and substandard conditions, constitute another employment strain. Furthermore, tensions between co-workers flowing from this cohabitation increase employment demands for these migrants. At the same time, we illustrate that the employment resources available to migrant farmworkers to buffer employment demands, such as control over the working environment, broadly conceived, fair remuneration, and employers’ expressions of appreciation, are extremely limited. Finally, government initiatives to address migrant farmworkers’ employment demands in the 2000s and 2010s have a limited impact in light of migrants’ precarious residency status and transnational lives. Keywords Occupational health and safety · Precarious employment · Deportability · Migrant farmworkers · Canada © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 L. F. Vosko et al., Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic, Politics of Citizenship and Migration, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17704-0_3

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As a sector characterized by the predominance of poorly remunerated difficult, dangerous, and demeaning jobs unattractive to most local workers, Canadian agriculture has benefited from the labour of migrants, most of whom are recruited through the two streams of TFWP and some working on farms without authorization. Similar to settler colonial states, such as New Zealand, and, increasingly, Australia and the US, Canada grants migrant agricultural workers entry as economically necessary workers, available to work in jobs undesirable to citizen workers, but provides them with differential access to rights and entitlements available to citizens and permanent residents—including the ability to circulate freely in the labour market without fear of repatriation, access to social supports like employment insurance in case of unemployment, and barrier-free access to publicly insured health care. In this context, migrant farmworkers habitually perform “essential” work (e.g., preparation of fields, application of pesticides, fertilization, irrigation and harvesting, etc.), often at considerable risk to their own health and well-being (Vosko & Spring, 2021). While the TFWP is administered by federal departments and agencies, management of this program is complicated by the jurisdictional complexities of Canadian federalism. For instance, while the federal government has primacy over immigration and negotiates MOUs and standard employment contracts with sending states, Canada’s provinces have the power to enact and enforce labour laws (except for workers falling in the federal jurisdiction) as well as policies applicable to (im)migrants. The provinces are also responsible for regulating and the provision of health insurance, while housing and public health measures are within the jurisdictional domain of municipalities. This patchwork of protection contributes to gaps in protections for, and access to, rights among migrant workers. Such gaps are heightened for migrant workers in agriculture in particular: although food production is a national priority, labour regulation falls within provincial jurisdiction and, in order to keep food costs low and farming competitive, many provinces either exempt or partially-exempt farmworkers (citizen and non-citizen alike)

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from legal protections (Barnetson, 2016; Preibisch, 2007; Vosko et al., 2019). For instance, Ontario and Alberta deny farmworkers access to statutory collective bargaining rights as well as minimum employment standards on the basis of “farmworker exceptionalism” (Tucker, 2012; Vosko et al., 2019). Moreover, while agricultural workers, including those that are migrants, are technically covered by general (i.e., not industryspecific) labour relations legislation in every other province in Canada, unionization among agricultural workers in Canada is uncommon,1 even among those actively seeking to exercise rights to organize and bargain collectively (on the challenges faced by migrant farmworkers seeking to organize and collectively bargain in British Columbia as employer- and time-specific work permitholders, see Vosko, 2018, 2019). In contrast, agricultural workers in Ontario are included in the Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA), legislation which technically protects agricultural workers’ right to form “employees’ associations,” but does not include a duty to bargain.2 Yet, certain employment standards established mainly through bilaterally negotiated employment agreements are meant to level the playing field between migrant and national workers. SAWP agreements, reviewed and renegotiated on an annual basis between representatives of the Government of Canada, growers’ associations, and sending states, provide migrant farmworkers with certain entitlements with respect to their weekly hours, periods of rest, some protection from occupational hazards, and wages as well as the accommodations, meals, and health insurance (see ESDC, 2021b, 2021c). Although AS does not bind employers to 1 According to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, the union coverage rate in 2020 in the agricultural industry was 3.3%, such that approximately 4200 agricultural workers were unionized that year (Statistics Canada, 2021). 2 While the AEPA requires that employers give employees’ association “reasonable opportunity” to make representations respecting the terms and conditions of employment (Agricultural Employees Protection Act 2002, s.5[1]) and listen or read employees’ associations’ representations (s. 5[6]), the Agricultural Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (AFAART) affirmed in 2018 that “collective bargaining does not apply under the AEPA” (United Food and Commercial Workers International Union v MedReleaf Corp. 2018, para. 13). In phase two of the former case, in which AFAART heard the United Food and Commercial Workers Association’s complaint that AEPA (particularly Section 5, which outlines processes of representation) violates agricultural workers’ associational rights guaranteed under Section 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the AFAART found that Sections 2(1) and 5 of the AEPA do not violate the agricultural workers’ associational rights protected by the Constitution. See UFCW v MedReleaf Phase 2 2020, para. 6.

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terms established under the SAWP employment contract negotiated by sending and receiving governments, employers recruiting workers to this program are nevertheless required to meet certain employment standards. Before submitting an LMIA under the AS, an employer must complete and submit an employment contract (either using a template contract provided by ESDC or another contract that covers the same items for inclusion). This contract must outline provisions on wages and deductions, housing, transportation costs, and must indicate the employer will respect provincial labour laws and employment standards consistent with regulations adopted under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (2002), starting in 2015 (ESDC, 2021d; on changes emanating in 2015, see below; see also Marsden et al., 2021). For both SAWP and AS participants, however, at least some of these provisions are violated. In the first part of this chapter, we examine employment demands such as occupational health hazards, including workplace harassment, and workplace pressure to increase productivity and reduce rest. We also document housing conditions migrant farmworkers experience in Canada because, for these workers, housing is also a factor contributing to employment demands. Separated from their households and communities across transnational space, migrant farmworkers are placed in employer-provided housing, often located on farm or adjacent to the worksite and shared with other co-workers. Our conceptualization of employment strain (introduced in Chapter 2) centres employment relationships among transnational workers; namely, non-citizen migrant farmworkers with precarious residency status. Admitted to Canada on temporary employer-tied job contracts, most migrant workers normalize and/or comply with the excessive employment demands and are not in a position to avail themselves to the resources that are supposed to buffer against these demands. Canadianbased researchers have documented how the conditions of “deportability” (Basok et al., 2014; Vosko, 2013, 2019) compel workers to become hyper-productive (see also McLaughlin, 2010; Perry, 2018) and heighten exploitation, or what we label here and elsewhere employment strain (Vosko, 2006; see also Lewchuk et al., 2006). For migrant farmworkers coming from different countries under the two programs, “deportability” also implies the possibility of being replaced by workers from another country. Employers frequently use the threat of replacement to discipline their workers and increase their productivity (Basok & Bélanger, 2016; Preibisch & Binford, 2007). Thus, deportability and replaceability are fundamental tenets of this compliance-oriented regime.

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Another important reason why most migrant farmworkers normalize excessive employment demands they experience is due to the responsibility to maintain and improve their households’ economic well-being by remitting their Canadian-earned earnings to their households. Because migrant farmworkers emigrate from contexts in which social well-being and economic security are circumvented by ongoing processes of land, resource, and labour expropriation, there is significant pressure on workers to join the global labour force (Chartrand & Vosko, 2020). The possibility of supporting households with the help of remittances from a wealthier country thus both a contributor to employment strain, insofar as it can heighten dependency on the employer, and also a job resource. The transnational employment strain model we thereby employ takes into account the economic dependence of the migrant farmworkers on remittances and the corresponding requirement to maintain social and economic ties across time and space. For most workers we interviewed, the vast disparity between economic conditions in their countries of origin (be they in Latin America or the Caribbean) is the main driver for participation in temporary migration programs to Canada. Both migrants’ tenuous residency status and transnational employment relationships are (re)produced by the Canadian state. Canadian immigration policies that privilege well-educated and assumedly “higher-skilled” immigrants forcibly separate migrants with lower levels of education and skills classified as “low” or “lower” from their families and communities (ESDC, 2021a). At the same time, by granting them temporary employment contracts tied to specific employers (ESDC, 2021a), these policies reproduce migrants’ precarity. In the second part of this chapter, we turn attention to the employment resources available to migrant farmworkers to buffer these employment demands. We begin by discussing resources such as control over the working environment, broadly conceived, fair remuneration, and employers’ expressions of appreciation, demonstrating that such resources are extremely limited among migrant farmworkers employed in Canada. We then probe government initiatives to address migrant farmworkers’ employment demands in the 2000s and 2010s, illustrating their limits in light of migrants’ precarious residency status and transnational lives.

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Employment Demands Among Transnational Migrant Farmworkers Occupational Health Hazards and Injuries Recognized as a hazardous occupation, farm work is characterized by high levels of risks such as exposure to chemical contaminants, extreme heat, accidents involving machinery, and musculoskeletal traumas (CAIR, 2016). Work-related illness and injury are thereby widespread among farmworkers (Hennebry, 2012; McLaughlin, 2009; McLaughlin & Hennebry, 2011). Among the workers we interviewed, over fifty percent acknowledged the presence of occupational risks in their workplaces, including exposure to toxins (mostly pesticides), a concern raised more frequently by Ontario workers employed in greenhouses. Many such workers mentioned frequent violations of safety procedures meant to provide an essential resource to this high-risk employment demand when these toxic chemicals were used. Despite not having protective clothing, René, a Mexican worker employed by the same farm in the Niagara region for over thirty years, summarized regular exposure to chemicals: “Inside a greenhouse, it’s impossible to avoid contact with the chemicals. Whether one wants it or not, you have to pass through the space where you’ve just used chemicals, and your clothes get soaked in it.” Moreover, supervisors may reprimand migrant farmworkers for inquiring about chemical safety procedures and/or probing further about the chemicals they are required to use on the job, as was the case for Jamaican worker Donald. As an employee of a large greenhouse comprised of 250–300 workers, Donald told us that he “got in trouble” for inquiring about potential hazards to workers using pesticides without suitable protection. He recalled: Before the pandemic, we were exposed to the chemical and I mean, “exposed” because we never get those white suits and all these things. No mask, no, no, no gloves. Because they keep telling us that the chemicals are organic. You don’t have organic chemicals. Come on. This is chemicals where you put the tender plant to kill bugs and stuff, so you don’t think that it can hurt us. No, it’s organic. Also, it can kill the bugs. Yes. But we didn’t get it, as I told you before, I get in trouble when I contacted the company to find out about the [federal health requirements in agriculture] to ask for safety data sheets. I said we don’t get any safety data sheet and I need to read up about it before we use it, it’s a new chemical, we need [a] data sheet and I get in trouble

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for it. Well. I think that was wrong... you should not deny anybody who works with chemical SDS [Safety Data Sheets] sheet; because I have asthma, I need to know [even] if it doesn’t bother me. You need to know if the worker gets sick, collapse[s], died in your greenhouse, on [the] job. Then, your insurance goes up and you have a debt on your shoulder. [My employer] wasn’t pleased with me calling the company to find out about it.

During their interviews, workers reported additional occupational risks, such as working on elevated platforms without secure protection. For Donald, having to work on a scissor lift without a safety harness, or adequate training from his employer exemplified this high degree of risk: We don’t get training on this Skyjack [a scissor lift]. I mean, no, those things run into a track like this. And if it not level, it rocks. And you go up there, you walk there and it rocks, you will rock again... We don’t get well training. We have no harness. We don’t get no harness. Is that they’re telling us? Well, if you can’t do it, you should not be here. It’s not a matter of can’t do it and you need to train us. And give us the harness. We could hook it up here and do what we’re doing and move it down. They say it’ll slow down the process... The Minister of Labour should see that the farmers train all migrant workers with chemicals, carts, Skyjacks, everything.

As a migrant whose permit had expired, Julio was particularly concerned about falling from a lift while harvesting tomatoes. In the event of an accident, he would not be able to afford medical care without corresponding health insurance denied to workers without legal status. Workers interviewed in our study also noted exposure to adverse climatic conditions as potentially hazardous. Working at a farm in Quebec, Mauricio, an Indigenous Guatemalan worker, informed us about his fears, and those of his co-workers, of being mandated to work in the field during a thunderstorm. He also recalled his employer’s callous indifference to their concerns: Once she made us work during a downpour. There were thunderbolts and lightning bolts. Then one time a whirlwind lifted all our things, even the tractor was moving. But the owner, it just made her laugh. She has no feelings, no heart. My co-workers and I moved to one side, we stopped working, but when she saw that we stopped to work she reprimanded us. She said it wasn’t a problem for her if she made us work during the downpour. It rained all day, and we kept on working. But our raincoats were good for just three hours.

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Despite Mauricio’s emphasis on the discomfort he and his co-workers endured in working in a downpour, the hazards of lightning and thunder to which he refers initially cannot be understated. In fact, in August 2021, a migrant farmworker from Guatemala was struck and killed by lightning while working on a farm near Montreal (CBC News, 2021). While the workers are exposed to occupational hazards, their access to health care is often limited. SAWP requires employers to ensure migrant farmworkers are registered for provincial/territorial health insurance, and the template employment contract for the AS indicates that employers are to arrange and pay for private health insurance upon arrival and until workers are eligible for provincial public health insurance. In Ontario, SAWP workers are entitled to provincial health insurance upon arrival (see Ontario Health Insurance Act, Recommendation 522, Section 1.3[2]), while AS workers are eligible after a three-month waiting period. In other provinces, such as Quebec, where SAWP workers are not eligible for provincial health insurance immediately upon arrival, private health insurance must be acquired, though it can be paid for through deductions from wages (e.g., ESDC, 2021b, V 2. c; VI 9). Private health insurance creates a range of barriers for migrant farmworkers insofar as some clinics do not provide direct billing to private insurers (Caxaj & Cohen, 2019), compelling workers to pay out of pocket or neglect health concerns, and private insurers may refuse to cover certain health expenses. Employers retaining workers under the SAWP are contractually obligated to transport workers “to and from a hospital or clinic whenever [they] need medical attention” (ESDC, 2021b, VIII.6). Yet minor injuries, ailments, and illnesses are frequently disregarded or not reported by workers for fear of retaliation or repatriation (Gravel et al., 2014; Hanley et al., 2014, 2020; Hennebry et al., 2016; McLaughlin et al., 2018). In the absence of bilateral agreements defining employers’ healthcare responsibilities for migrants recruited under the AS, in Quebec, a province where most farmworkers are employed under this program, it is common for employers to routinely ignore their workers’ health needs. Gisella, a Guatemalan woman employed in Quebec identified this major problem: We used to lift 50 pounds; we would fill two boxes. We’ve seen a lot of things. Some women used to fall or get bruised. But even if one was bruised or injured, they didn’t do anything to help. When we first arrive they say, “don’t worry, if you get sick, we are here to help.” But they don’t do it. They just let

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you rest and nothing else. Not even medication. That’s how it is… I got sick one time. I had a huge sore on my leg. And the supervisor told me to just put ice on it. And then the sore on my knee busted, but I had to work. I worked like this and put up with the pain. But then I got a fever and lots of pain. I don’t know if it was a spider bite. I don’t know. Some insect stung me. I told the supervisor “Madam, I don’t feel well.” And she says, “just wash it with warm water.” And that’s just what she said to me. “Take Advil for pain.” And nothing else.

Several of the workers in our study reported confronting toxic work environments in which employers or co-workers were engaged in workplace harassment. This workplace problem aggravated the already physically dangerous and demanding working conditions afforded by agricultural work. Gisella, who had experienced harassment on the part of her employer, narrated: I was new at work. The supervisor thought I didn’t know what I was doing, and she reprimanded me. She asked me if I wanted to work or go back home because I was doing things wrong. She shouted at me. I burst into tears and cried all day.

Mauricio, a Guatemalan worker employed in Quebec, similarly described his employer’s aggressive conduct: Instead of explaining things to me, she [the employer] screamed at me and reprimanded me. Well, one time, I had a toothache, and my face was swollen. But I never told her I needed to see a doctor or that I was in pain. Despite the pain I knew that it was my responsibility to keep on working. But since she saw my swollen face, instead of asking me what was wrong, she just looked at me and left. She came back with a bottle of Tylenol, but instead of saying “here, take it for the pain,” she grabbed the bottle and threw it at me... I didn’t catch it. And then she asks, “what’s going on?” and I said, “a toothache.” And she says, “you bastard (cabrón), asshole (pendejo), there is no time to go to a doctor here”.

Alberto was very disturbed by his experience on a farm in British Columbia. “He wanted slaves, rather than workers” he said of his former employer. The workers’ difficulties began when they discovered upon arrival that the employer had not supplied the necessary provisions for the house, “not even a spoon,” as Alberto put it. He continued:

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And not just that, we were abandoned there, and we went on for two days without food. We were too far from town, and we didn’t know where to go. It was a 20-minute ride by bicycle, but we didn’t have any bicycles, nothing, and we didn’t know where to go. And we didn’t work. A whole week without work. When we started to work, the employer only showed up to scream at us. He shouted at us demanding that we work fast. We didn’t have anything, no bed, no appliances, no furniture. And he wanted us to buy whatever we needed for the house, but the stores were too far. And we worked just two or three days per week.... And then one day, he physically assaulted a worker who was not working as fast as the rest of us.

Pressure to Increase Productivity and Extend Working Hours Most migrant farmworkers interviewed reported excessive pressure to work fast and, at times, reduce periods of rest. René described his employer as a reasonable man who valued quality over speed: I think that in this sense, our boss is always, well, I imagine he is one of the most understanding bosses. When he talks to us, he says, “I know that the work is hard.” He says, “I started working like you, as a farm worker and I know it’s hard.” And then he says, “What I want is for you to complete the work, right? Do it slowly but do it well. I don’t want you to rush and do it badly.” And that’s why I tell you that he is among the most understanding people in this sense.

By calling his employer “the most understanding person,” René implied that other employers are different. Accordingly, several workers admitted that the expectations concerning their productivity were unreasonable or that there was constant monitoring of productivity. Among them was Mauricio, employed on a farm in Quebec, who reported that the four migrant farmworkers were required to complete the work that should have been expected of eight workers. Alberto, working in a greenhouse in Ontario, found computer monitoring particularly stressful; he told us, half-jokingly, he considered leaving the farm when the employer first introduced this productivity surveillance system. When unable to keep up with other workers, migrant farmworkers are likely to lose not only their current contracts but also future opportunities to participate in the program. Julio, who is 62 years old, told us he could no longer work as fast as his younger co-workers. He felt that the decision taken by the Mexican Ministry of Labour and Social Provision to remove

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him from the SAWP was the direct result of his inability to keep a fast pace at work. Julio explained, “I think that they didn’t want to send me [to Canada] because of my age, they preferred a young man or woman who could work faster.” Notably, having lost his place in the program, Julio decided to return to Canada without a contract and use his own means “to find opportunities to get ahead.” Pressure to complete the work fast meant that no bathroom breaks outside of the scheduled times were allowed. Some workers could not even complete their scheduled breaks. As Gisella recalled: “During the break the supervisor was pressuring us to finish eating quickly. She wouldn’t give us even 15 minutes and say “c’mon, hurry up, that’s it.” Provincial minimum employment standards legislation conditions migrant farmworkers’ employment demands and resources. In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and home to the majority of migrant farmworkers, all workers in agriculture are exempt from standards governing overtime pay (see especially Thomas et al., 2019), and the predominant occupational groups in which SAWP and the AS participants fall (i.e., specifically harvesters and farm employees), are exempt from all regulations governing hours of work, daily rest periods, time off between shifts, weekly/biweekly rest periods and eating periods (Vosko et al., 2019). Within this context, most workers in our study reported that they worked between 10 and 12 hours per day during the peak harvesting season with just two 10-to-15-minute breaks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and an unpaid 30- or 60-minute lunch break. Most workers were expected to work 6 days per week, but some only worked a few hours on Sundays. Overcrowded and Substandard Housing As transnational workers separated from their households across transnational space, migrant farmworkers are placed in employer-provided housing shared with other co-workers. This practice is not incidental but, rather, by design; with the exception of the province of British Columbia, bilateral agreements under the longstanding SAWP mandate that participants reside in employer-provided housing (ESDC, 2021b, II.A). Consequently, the majority of migrant farmworker dwellings are on the farm, resulting in the merging of work and home “into one geographic site” (Perry, 2018). In that sense, housing conditions can be viewed as constitutive of employment demands among this group as well

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as undermining the potential employment resource of housing security itself. The SAWP requires employers in all provinces with the exception of BC to provide “clean, adequate living accommodations,” free of cost, and the template contract for the AS requires that housing be inspected and fulfil the provisions for the National Minimum Standards for Agricultural Accommodations; yet the housing provided is generally “dilapidated, unsanitary, overcrowded and poorly ventilated” (Preibisch & Hennebry, 2011, 1035; see also Díaz Mendiburo & McLaughlin, 2016; Perry, 2018; Preibisch & Otero, 2014; Tomic et al., 2010), as our interviews clearly confirm. Accordingly, overcrowding was the major concern for the workers we interviewed. As Gisella mentioned: We were four in one room. Sometimes seven or eight of us had to cook on the same stove because some did not work. And the same with washers; only two were available. We would come from work tired and then we had to wait or get up at 4 in the morning to wash clothes. Just imagine. We came home from work at 9:30 at night and then we had to cook, clean, prepare food for next day... The truth is that it’s not easy.

Andrew recounted his dilapidated bunkhouse conditions and their influence on his health: Oh it’s terrible where I’m at; it’s terrible. As I said the bunkhouse is too congested with people and it’s got that racial tension, and everyone is quick to point fingers. So it’s a lot, it’s not good, the bunkhouse conditions are not good [Q: how many people do you have living there now?] 60 persons. That’s a lot. It’s hard to move around say for instance the stove is like 12 burners, it’s a big industrial stove. You know you’re coming from work tired but you’re hungry, but you want to cook something, and everybody is hungry and want to cook something, so if you come in ten minutes late from work, when you get in the kitchen all the burners are completely full, and you gotta wait until those meals are done. And sometimes you’re running in with your pot to put it on that burner, but somebody says that they were waiting for that burner and then you have to wait maybe 40 minutes more. That alone, sometimes you are just frustrated, so you take a shower and go to bed and that’s not good and then you end up getting stomach problems, gastro problems. Because the type of food that you cook and you eat, after eating if you wanna sleep, and your food doesn’t digest properly, and that’s been a problem for me, I

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have to visit the doctor many times because I finish work late, and it depends if I get the stove or not.

Others reported their houses to be in a state of decay. For example, René stated: Some people say that our house is the worst they’ve ever seen... When I first came here 29 or 30 years ago, the employer was going to tear it down and build a new one. But it’s still here...He just reinforced this wall. But it’s falling apart, and still it’s there. He just paints it once in a while. It’s uninhabitable. It’s humid, there are lots of rats, when it’s cold there are drafts, the roof is leaking. He just fixes it every year, but then it starts leaking again. It’s uninhabitable... I am fed up telling the boss that it’s no good. I always tell him “it’s no good”. Even carpenters who come to fix it tell him, “You know what? What you need to do is set it on fire and for next year build new ones.”

When working on an apple farm in Ontario, Julio told us that there were no indoor bathrooms available to workers. Housing conditions were so abysmal, he told us, that bed bugs were commonly reported, and several workers wanted to file a complaint with authorities. Julio did not wish to indicate whether or not they submitted a complaint, simply that they felt the need to do so. Deportability As mentioned above, the employment strain model centres employment relationships. Many researchers chronicle how the working environment confronting migrant farmworkers in Canada is characterized by a “climate of coercion” (Caxaj & Cohen, 2019) rooted in migrants’ deportability. Some workers interviewed articulated to us that even though they had concerns about some aspects of their work environment (or their employment demands), they were reluctant to voice their concerns to their employers for fear of losing their jobs and future contracts. Invoking the precarious nature of the migrant farmworkers’ employment contracts and their deportability, Alberto reflected on the inability of the workers to improve their working environment and their acceptance of occupational health and safety risks:

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It’s a big company and there is an HR office that is in charge of these things. They give us talks sometimes. They tell us how to work, how much weight the lift that we work in can support. But in fact, we don’t do it. These are just talks, and it’s up to each of us how we do it. We would not be able to work if we did what they said. Sometimes, the car that we work in cannot support more than 100 kgs or 200 pounds, right? But sometimes, there are two of us in the lift, and even more if we harvest. So, we exceed the allowable maximum. And they talk to us about it, but in practice we don’t follow these suggestions. [Question: and can you raise these concerns to HR?] Yes, we can, but we don’t do it. [Question: because of fear of not being asked back?] Yes, exactly.

Most workers accept unhealthy working environments for fear of being removed from the program (or their “deportability”). As Alberto, a Mexican worker employed in a greenhouse in Leamington, told us, workers are often present while greenhouses are sprayed. Yet, his narrative makes clear that migrant farmworkers feel powerless to demand greater protection for fear of not being asked to return to work in Canada on account of their deportability. As mentioned earlier, their deportability is an important dimension of the employment strain and it impacts the degree of their acceptance of the employment demands that are placed on them. As Alberto put it: More than anything, it’s the exposure to chemicals, because when they spray, they don’t tell us to go work in another area. We keep on working while they are spraying. [Question: does it concern you?)]. Yeah, I think it does, we all worry about it, but we don’t say anything. If we complain, they say it’s not a problem, just go to another area, and it won’t be a problem there, but we don’t do it either or else (he giggles), for next season we won’t be coming.

For Mariano, a Quebec-based worker, it was the overcrowded housing characterized by insufficient bathroom and kitchen facilities for the number of occupants, that was of major concern. Yet, when an inspector came to their house, the employer told the workers not to complain. As Mariano emphasized ,“out of fear, we would say whatever we were told to say,” underscoring how deportability conditions workers to accept excessive employment demands. Matías highlighted the insecurity of migrants’ contracts and the lack of support from the Consulate (to be discussed in more detail below) or recruitment company that supplies workers to this area. He told us how these two institutions failed to protect his friend:

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I don’t believe that they can help us either. A friend of mine had a bad experience when he sought help from these institutions. He went to ask for help because he was treated badly at work. Instead of receiving help, he got fired from his work. So, on the part of the recruitment agency or consulate, there is no help either; and I don’t trust that I can express my concerns to them.

There are institutional obstacles impeding interventions by consular officials supportive of workers, despite the protective roles they are assigned in SAWP bilateral agreements. Indeed, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) (1963), an international instrument ratified by the foremost sending states party to the SAWP, consular officials serve the dual function of “protecting in the receiving State the interest of the sending State and of its nationals” (VCCR 1963, schedule 2, art. 5 (a) as discussed in Vosko, 2013). However, consular representatives often prioritize the interests of their states in maintaining smooth relationships with employers and thus ensuring their country’s participation in the labour migration program over the protection needs of their co-nationals (see especially Basok, 2002; Basok et al., 2014; Binford, 2013; Valenzuela-Moreno, 2018). The replaceability by workers from another country contributes to racial and ethnic tensions among migrant farmworkers, as was the case on Mariano’s farm that hired Indigenous workers from Guatemala as well as non-Indigenous Mexican migrants. When Mariano started working in Canada, he did not speak much Spanish, and non-Indigenous Mexican workers made fun of him. Mariano recollected with pain the bullying he and other Indigenous workers experienced on his farm, “They call us assholes and that we are not good for anything, that we are garbage, and that we can’t speak well, that we should stay in our villages and not try to leave for the city.” On his farm, a non-Indigenous Mexican foreman (capataz) was particularly abusive. Mariano told us what happened: I am a farmer, and I work well. The capataz didn’t like it when we worked either too slowly or too fast. He would get angry and would call workers who were not keeping up assholes. One time I finished my row fast and started another one. He got mad at me and wanted to hit me... I defended myself, and he didn’t like it, and as he was trying to kick me again, all my strawberries got spilled... From that moment, the Mexican workers made fun of me too much.

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Mariano complained about this foreman to the farm owner. However, when two consecutive Guatemalan foremen replaced the Mexican foreman, the latter two became the subjects of bullying by the Mexican workers. Transnational Responsibilities and Employment Demands Many migrant workers are compelled to accept excessive employment demands, such as long hours of work, they encounter on Canadian farms because their households’ economic well-being depends on the earnings these migrants remit. For instance, most workers welcomed the opportunity to work long hours so that they could earn additional income. Pablo expressed this sentiment clearly when he said: When there was a lot of work, we worked 72 hours a week... To tell you the truth, for us, it’s fine. We like it when we get a lot of work... And it’s just for a short period, not the entire seasons. And that’s why we are glad when we get work, because we know that it’s just four weeks or so.

For those employed in Ontario greenhouses, where peak seasons are usually longer than four weeks, working long hours for several months was still considered to be an opportunity. In fact, those that worked fewer than 50 hours per week felt disappointed. We interviewed only two workers who told us that, at their age (both were in their sixties), they preferred to work fewer hours. Also, Donald who was concerned that prolonged exposure to pesticides was detrimental to one’s health, indicated his preference for fewer hours of work. However, for most workers, especially on account of relatively low hourly wages, longer hours meant that they could better support their families, even if it meant that they were not availing themselves of sufficient rest. In sum, employment demands among migrant farmworkers reflect work environment characterized by occupational hazards and workplace harassment, expectations of prolonged hours of intensified work, and overcrowded and otherwise unsanitary and unsafe living conditions, combined with employment insecurity (conditioned by “deportability”) in the context of transnational relationships and lives. In the next section, we consider whether and, if so, to what extent, migrant farm work is characterized by “employment resources” that offset employment demands, focusing on resources such as control over the working environment,

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reasonable compensation or fair remuneration, employer expressions of appreciation, as well as select government initiatives meant to address excessive employment demands.

Employment Resources Available to Migrant Farmworkers Control Over the Work Environment Farm size greatly influences the extent to which a worker can control their working environment. Migrant workers operating on smaller farms in Quebec informed us that they felt comfortable sharing their concerns with their employers, in part because employers worked and lived alongside their employees on these farms. Tomas, a Guatemalan worker on a small farm in Quebec who employs only two migrant farmworkers, recalled a positive relationship with his employer, whom he described as being willing to cater to workers’ needs and concerns: We feel comfortable talking to the boss. Whatever we need, we just tell him, and he is there to do it. He even asks us if we have any questions or if we want anything, what we think, and he encourages us to tell him. It’s different here than on other farms. Here the boss never gets angry. He greets us and asks us how we are. And this makes us want to work better.

Nevertheless, Tomas recognized that his farm was unique. Several migrant farmworkers, particularly those working on larger farms controlled by human resource departments, mentioned feeling obligated to accept their working conditions without options for recourse. As Matías, a Mexican greenhouse worker in Leamington, explained: There is a person in human resources to whom we are supposed to direct our concerns if there is a situation that needs to be addressed. But a lot of times, instead of helping us to find a solution, they just put obstacles in our way; and that’s what the things are like. When I first started working, I thought I could bring to their attention that something was not working well, and that they could tell the employer. But to tell you the truth, I no longer believe anyone is going to help us.

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Recall that Matías was also concerned about being dismissed and repatriated for raising concerns (and the lack of consular protection or, in the case of Guatemalan migrant farmworkers, the support of the recruiter/recruitment agency); therefore, the scepticism he expresses in the last sentence should be interpreted in this context. Even though Andrew, a Jamaican man working in a Leamington greenhouse, did not bring up deportability, his frustration about his supervisor mirrors the sentiments expressed by Matías in noteworthy ways: I told him that I have to punch out because I haven’t eaten in two days. I come in at 8 pm in the night, and all the stove are full and I have to get some rest and reenergize myself. So I didn’t eat much I just have a snack so I’m having gastro problems, and sometimes it gets to a point where I have to go to the doctor they gave me some pills some medicine like ulcer stuff… [Question: what does the supervisor do?] Well, they don’t do anything you know, the greatest point is getting the work done you know. And that’s the thing, at the farm where I’m at right now if you tell them you are sick, they don’t believe you. They don’t believe you, they say, “oh you’re only saying that because you’re tired.”

Workers, in fact, are rarely consulted about how many hours they are able to work per day or per week. Julio’s employer, like many other companies that rarely communicate with their employees, would require workers to stay late into the evenings or forego their lunch breaks to complete tasks. Julio observed this asymmetrical relationship: “The contract is always in favour of the boss and not us who come from a country with extreme poverty and crime. And we have to accept it.” It is notable that Julio invoked global inequality here: poverty (and crime) in Latin American and Caribbean countries often compel people to leave their home communities and work in Canada, even if their Canadian jobs are dirty, demanding, and demeaning. Workers who are unable to change their working conditions by raising issues and negotiating with employers or supervisors, participate in what Scott refers to as “everyday forms of resistance” (Scott, 1985; see, for instance, Basok, 2002, 114; Cohen & Hjalmarson, 2020). René’s case illustrates this practice astutely. René believed that because he was undertaking supervisory duties, he deserved to be paid more. However, he earned the same compensation despite his employer pledging to boost his pay by one dollar an hour. In defiance, René began extending his breaks, by walking “as slow as [he] could”:

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I just take five minutes extra of the 15-minute break. That’s how I seek compensation. I want him to see that after the break I just walk slowly. He doesn’t say anything because he knows that if he does, I will also reprimand him. I would tell him, “Well, and how much are you paying me? Well, this is what you get.” After so many years of working on this farm, I feel comfortable to talk to him like this.

René’s thirty-year tenure at this farm is an important factor to consider here. Having built a relationship of trust with René, his employer was more likely to tolerate René’s informal acts of rebellion. He was also less concerned about his future in Canada as he approached retirement. By contrast, this level of assertiveness is not typical among other workers who are more readily deportable (see Basok, 2002, 110–112; Vosko, 2013). For many migrant farmworkers, direct confrontation with their employers is uncommon. But some workers like Alberto do speak up against those employers who, in their opinion, are particularly harsh or unjust. Alberto described how he and his co-workers could no longer tolerate being harassed by their employer on a farm in British Columbia (see above). After the employer assaulted a colleague, Alberto and others insisted on speaking with the Mexican Consulate before returning to their duties. Their employer responded by ordering the workers to leave the farm immediately, even though it was dark and raining at the time. After walking for hours along the desolate road, the workers called the police and requested assistance. Upon arriving at the police station, they contacted the Mexican Consulate who did in fact, assist the workers (contrary to Matías’ experience described above) in finding work at another farm. During their two months employed at this farm, there was little work available for them to do, and the remittances they were able to send to their families were much lower than expected. As a result, while these migrant farmworkers were able to flee an abusive employer, they were unable to find positions that paid enough to support their families. Adequate Remuneration A majority of migrant farmworkers felt that their rates of remuneration were too low and wished it was above minimum wage. But while they considered their earnings to be unfair, they felt powerless in seeking raises, as Pablo explained, “Well, the truth is, we cannot do anything about our minimum wage; so, we have no choice but accept it; our bosses are in charge.”

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When asked about the suitability of their pay, Andrew also conveyed resignation, however, he was more critical of the system that oppresses migrant farmworkers, remarking, “You know there are a lot of things that I would like to say but I just don’t, honest to God. Long story, my dear, very long story. You know we cannot fight the system if the system is more than us. We have to work with it…you either accept it or you don’t. You cannot go against what is more than you.” Andrew’s view reflects migrant farmworkers’ awareness of how their precarious jobs and legal status in Canada limits their ability to negotiate improved working conditions or remuneration. Several workers who were assigned tasks that required higher skill levels or came with additional responsibilities, such as Matías, a worker positioned in Leamington, felt they merited higher pay: I am in charge of packing twice a week as if I was a supervisor. I do the work that other people are supposed to do. Let me explain. For instance, I work with forklifts, but if one of the machines is broken, I have to repair it. And twice a week I work as a supervisor, all by myself. I don’t think it’s fair. And I told the employer that I don’t feel comfortable doing it... At first I liked it because each day I was doing something different. The problem was started when I was asked to do too many things the same day. For instance, one day I was in packing, and the next day I was repairing machines at the same time. And then it would be something else. And I had to stay alert to see if anything else needed to be done. And that was in addition to my regular work. [Question: were you tired?] More than anything, it was stress and pressure because you get more and more work. And you never get any free time. And there is no incentive, like “you know what? I am going to give you more work; do this for me, and then I would pay you more if you help me out. I know that you can do it, and help me out, and I would pay you say one dollar more per hour.” It would be something, otherwise, you just feel annoyed.

However, the two steams of the TFWP for agricultural workers are geared towards workers with “lower” skills and do not allow for the workers to be promoted to higher positions with corresponding higher scales of pay. Even though informally some migrant farmworkers are required to assume positions with more responsibilities and requiring more skills, in monetary terms, they are not rewarded accordingly. A number of workers believed that their compensation levels were disproportionately low compared to other regional contexts in Canada. Ezequiel, a Guatemalan worker in Quebec, touched on this differential by

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province: “It would be better for us if we were paid more because we make less money by comparison to other provinces.” His assessment was accurate: in Quebec, the minimum wage for migrant farmworkers was $13.50 in 2021 (CNESST, 2021), compared to Ontario where it was $14.25 and raising to $14.35 on October 1 that year (Government of Ontario, 2021). Some employers denied fair remuneration to their workers. Andrew was one worker who experienced wage theft: Well, you got to keep a check on it because they say the computer makes mistakes sometimes maybe missed a few hours, so we’re always supposed to keep a check on it. Other guys and I have complained; sometimes they dock a couple hours from our pay. So, you gotta keep a check on it.

If the wage theft characterizing Andrew’s case was attributable to a technical error, in Mauricio’s case it was intentional. Mauricio’s employer refused to compensate him or his co-workers for the 15–20 minutes it took to clean up the tools used as well as the herbs harvested that day. Staying to complete this extra task, according to the employer, was “voluntary,” even though workers’ consent was never solicited. Additionally, Julio informed us that his boss required them to stay an additional twenty minutes every day without pay. In workers’ experience, employers do relatively little to show their appreciation for their employees’ efforts. Several of the migrant farmworkers we interviewed stated that their bosses provided one or two meals per season along with the occasional beer. These “bonuses” represent the only expressions of appreciation received throughout the season contributing to migrant farmworkers lack of “employment resources” to compensate for the overwhelming employment demands. Yet, viewing “employment resources” from a transnational perspective, even a minimum wage earned in Canada offered migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, and other countries can be seen as an opportunity to significantly improve their families’ well-being. For most of these workers, the main reward is the opportunity to improve their families’ standards of living and provide education to their children (also, McLaughlin et al., 2017). This reward makes the employment strains more tolerable. Yet, this “employment resource” is Janus-faced: on the flip side, it can be seen as an employment demand, rather than a resource. Workers recognized the contradictory character of their transnational lives and relationships. As René explained to us: “For me, it would be ideal if I didn’t have

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to go to another country to work and leave our families behind. But, of course, it’s difficult because of the differences between the economy in Mexico and Canada…” As we underlined earlier, the reliance of households remaining in sending countries on workers’ uninterrupted participation in Canada’s TFWP compels most migrant farmworkers to accept unfair working conditions and excessive employment demands. We turn now to consider contemporary government initiatives to address excessive or unfair employment demands placed upon migrant farmworkers. Protecting Migrant Farmworkers from Excessive Employment Demand: Government Initiatives The federal government has introduced various initiatives to improve the enforcement of employed standards on farms employing migrant workers, as evidenced by incremental changes to provisions of bilateral agreements governing the SAWP and the template contract for the AS to be adapted and submitted alongside applicants for LMIAs and in general legislation (e.g., under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act [2002]) more broadly. In October 2009, it announced that employers found to have violated workers’ contracts with respect to their wages or working conditions would be ineligible to access the TFWP for two years and would be listed publicly (i.e., shamed) on the program website. However, no further mechanisms for workplace inspection were put into place; instead, the enforcement strategy relied solely on complaints filed by migrant workers (Nakache & Kinoshita, 2010) otherwise highly vulnerable to employer reprisal. This complaint-based mechanism for enforcing employment standards is seriously flawed. Institutionalized deportability, or the fear of being repatriated (De Genova, 2002) both immediately and from future migration for employment to Canada (Vosko, 2019), circumscribes migrant farmworkers’ capacity to voice workplace grievances and/or to demand fair and safe working conditions, both individually and collectively (Basok, 2002; Basok et al., 2014; Binford, 2013; Vosko, 2013). In 2015, the federal government introduced more thoroughgoing regulations to reduce exploitation and enforce workers’ rights under the TFWP via amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (2002). Under these provisions, provincial authorities were expected to enforce workplace protections. However, the lack of due regard for

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provincial laws characterized by multiple and partial exemptions for farmworkers, such as those delineated under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (Marsden et al., 2021), undermined such efforts. So too did the dearth of resources devoted to proactive inspections. For example, in Ontario, the Ministry of Labour’s enforcement arm, upon which the 2015 federal legislation relies, “completed only 62 blitz inspections on farms where migrants were employed between 2013 and 2015, an exceedingly low number given that in 2016 over 1,000 Ontario employers received positive LMIAs for agricultural workers” (Vosko et al., 2019, 248–249). Even in Ontario, therefore, it is highly unlikely that a migrant farmworker’s place of employment will be subjected to a proactive workplace inspection. At the same time, the design of proactive inspections is out of sync with agricultural workplaces in such provinces because inspectors are mandated to focus on so-called core or inspectable standards, from which many agricultural workers are exempt, partially exempt, or covered by a special rule. In 2019, the Canadian Government introduced the Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers program that aims to provide open work permits to workers deemed to be “experiencing or at risk of abuse” (IRCC, 2020). In fact, one interviewed worker, Mauricio, filed for an open work permit under this program, but at the time of the interview the decision was still pending. While this program can be considered a potential employment resource to balance against employment demands, these regulations are insufficient at best as they are “flawed by design” (Aziz, 2022; Marsden et al., 2021). However, despite the tenor of this policy response, the adjudication of applications is unclear, concerningly as a 2022 study conducted by Vancouver’s Migrant Workers Centre finds that, as of July 31, 2021, only 57.1% of applications made under the program were granted (Aziz, 2022). In reviewing immigration officers’ decisions on applications made under the program, the study finds that officers applied a limited definition of financial abuse and required significant evidence to support allegations of psychological abuse (Aziz, 2022). The Open Work Permit initiative also fails to protect workers not currently in Canada, a limitation affecting migrant farmworkers participating in the rotational SAWP as well as AS participants permitted to travel internationally while holding a closed work permit. For instance, one migrant farmworker we interviewed was on vacation in Mexico and planning to return for his second year of a two-year contract under the AS, when he was fired. This worker felt he was unjustly terminated but was deemed

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ineligible for an open work permit since he had already returned to Mexico. In such ways, efforts to better protect migrant farmworkers and bolster “employment resources” are constrained by workers’ conditions of entry and insecurity of presence. While sending states participating in the SAWP work with Canada to negotiate standard employment agreements outlining protections for participants and employ consular representatives in Canada in an attempt to ensure participants’ access to such fundamental rights and protections, consular officials’ role in addressing the poor living and working conditions of migrant workers through improved employment contracts is complex given central motivations for these countries is to ensure that their workers continue to participate in this program and support their household and communities by sending remittances. As indicated above, consular officials serve the dual function of protecting the interests of sending states and as well as negotiating the best terms of employment for their nationals (VCCR 1963, schedule 2, art. 5 [a]). In assuming interests of sending states (as corporate bodies) and their nationals are congruent, this function is, however, contradictory: the preservation of migrant remittances, no doubt a priority of the consular officials, can potentially undermine their formal roles of demanding improvements in the working conditions of their nationals abroad (Vosko, 2013). More broadly, at the behest of sending states, such officials may be compelled to prioritize diplomatic relationships with receiving states while negotiating employment standards for their nationals (Bada & Gleeson, 2015; Délano, 2009, 766; Rodriguez, 2010, 117). The fact that participating sending states have grown dependent on the exportation of labour since the inception of the SAWP in 1966 (André, 1990; Chartrand & Vosko, 2020; Satzewich, 1993) means that what might otherwise be considered a potential employment resource can function as a constraint or strain (Binford, 2013; Valenzuela-Moreno, 2018). In sum, employment demands, in the form of unsafe working environments, workplace pressure, overcrowded and run-down housing are excessive; moreover, the “deportability” regime, rooted in immigration policies that admit migrant farmworkers on fixed employer-tied contracts, compels workers to accept the status quo. Furthermore, the necessity to maintain and improve their households’ economic well-being through remittances makes it imperative that workers “perform their submissiveness” to the employers (McLaughlin, 2010). And yet few employment resources are available to migrant farmworkers to buffer employment

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demands. The employment strain resulting from this situation, flowing from deep power imbalances, undermines the migrant farmworkers’ well-being. In Chapter 4, we describe and analyse the experiences of migrant farmworkers in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elucidating transnational employment strain, in a manner applicable to migrant workers holding precarious residency status pre-pandemic and at its height, we illustrate that while their employment demands increased, particularly working and living in an unsafe environment, and their employment resources diminished, particularly release from employment demands through leisure and/or counselling, the pre-pandemic environment set the context for this intensified employment strain.

References André, I. (1990). The genesis and persistence of the commonwealth Caribbean seasonal agricultural workers program in Canada. Osgoode Hall LJ, 28, 243. Aziz, A. (2022). A promise of protection? An assessment of IRCC decisionmaking under the vulnerable worker open work permit program. Migrant Workers Centre. https://mwcbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/A-Pro mise-of-Protection_An-assessment-of-IRCC-decision-making-under-theVWOWP-program.pdf Bada, X., & Gleeson, S. (2015). A new approach to migrant labor rights enforcement: The crisis of undocumented worker abuse and Mexican consular advocacy in the United States. Labor Studies Journal, 40(1), 32–53. Barnetson, B. (2016). Capitalist farms, vulnerable workers: The political economy of farm work in Alberta. In S. A. McDonald & B. Barnetson (Eds.), Farm workers in Western Canada: Injustices and activism. University of Alberta Press. Basok, T. (2002). Tortillas and tomatoes: Transmigrant Mexican harvesters in Canada. Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers canadiens de sociologie, 31(1). Basok, T., & Bélanger, D. (2016). Migration management, disciplinary power, and performances of subjectivity: Agricultural migrant workers in Ontario. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 41(2), 139–163. Basok, T., Bélanger, D., & Rivas, E. (2014). Reproducing deportability: Migrant agricultural workers in South-Western Ontario. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40(9), 1394–1413. Binford, L. (2013). Tomorrow we’re all going to the harvest: Temporary foreign worker programs and neoliberal political economy. University of Texas Press.

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Gravel, S., Villanueva, F., Bernstein, S., Hanley, J., Villarreal, D.C., & Ostiguy, E. (2014). Les mesures de santé et sécurité au travail auprès des travailleurs étrangers temporaires: le cas du secteur agro-alimentaire. Perspectives Interdisciplinaires Sur Le Travail Et La Santé, 16(2). Hennebry, J. L. (2012). Permanently temporary? Agricultural migrant workers and their integration in Canada. Institute for Research on Public Policy. Hanley, J., Gravel, S., Lippel, K., & Koo, J. H. (2014). Pathways to healthcare for migrant workers: How can health entitlement influence occupational health trajectories? Perspectives Interdisciplinaires Sur Le Travail Et La Santé, 16–2. Hanley, J., Larios, L., Ricard-Guay, A., Meloni, F., & Rousseau, C. (2020). Pregnant and undocumented: taking work into account as a social determinant of health. International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care. Hennebry, J., McLaughlin, J., & Preibisch, K. (2016). Out of the loop: (In)access to health care for migrant workers in Canada. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 17 (2), 521–538. IRCC. (2020). Open work permits for vulnerable workers [R207.1–A72]– International Mobility Program. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-ref ugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-man uals/temporary-residents/foreign-workers/vulnerable-workers.html Lewchuk, W., de Wolff, A., King, A., & Polanyi, M. (2006). The hidden costs of precarious employment: Health and the employment relationship. In L. F Vosko (Ed.), Precarious employment: Understanding labour market insecurity in Canada, 141–162. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP. Marsden, S., Tucker, E., & Vosko, L. F. (2021). Flawed by design?: A case study of federal enforcement of migrant workers’ labour rights in Canada. Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal, 23(1), 71–102. McLaughlin, J. (2009). Migration and health: Implications for development: A case study of Mexican and Jamaican migrants in Canada’s seasonal agricultural workers program. Canadian Foundation for the Americas/Foundation Canadienne Pour Les Ameriques. McLaughlin, J. (2010). Classifying the ideal migrant worker: Mexican and Jamaican transnational farmworkers in Canada. Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, 57 , 79–94. McLaughlin, J., & Hennebry, J. (2011). Backgrounder on health and safety for migrant farmworkers. International Migration Research Centre (IMRC), 1. http://www.wlu.ca/documents/44258/IMRC_Policy_Points_Issue_I_M igrant_Farmworker_Health.pdf McLaughlin, J., Wells, D., Mendiburo, A. D., Lyn, A., & Vasilevska, B. (2017). ‘Temporary workers’, temporary fathers: Transnational family impacts of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. Relations industrielles / Industrial Relations, 72(4), 682–709.

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McLaughlin, J., Tew, M., & Huesca, E. (2018). Compounded vulnerabilities and creative strategies: Occupational health of temporary foreign agricultural workers. In S. Premji (Eds.), Sick and tired: Health and safety Inequalities. Fernwood Publishing. Cornell. Nakache, D., & Kinoshita, P. J. (2010). The Canadian temporary foreign worker program: do short-term economic needs prevail over human rights concerns?. IRPP Study, 5. Perry, J. A. (2018). Living at work and intra-worker sociality among migrant farm workers in Canada. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 19(4), 1021–1036. Preibisch, K. L. (2007). Local produce, foreign labor: Labor mobility programs and global trade competitiveness in Canada. Rural Sociology, 72(3), 418–449. Preibisch, K., & Binford, L. (2007). Interrogating racialized global labour supply: An exploration of the racial/national replaceme of foreign agricultural workers in Canada. Canadian Review of Sociology/revue Canadienne De Sociologie, 44(1), 5–36. Preibisch, K., & Hennebry, J. (2012). A model for managed migration? Re-examining best practices in Canada’s seasonal agricultural worker program. International Migration, 50, e19-e40. Preibisch, K., & Otero, G. (2014). Does citizenship status matter in Canadian agriculture? Workplace health and safety for migrant and immigrant laborers. Rural Sociology, 79(2), 174–199. Rodriguez, R. M. (2010). Migrants for export: How the Philippine state brokers labor to the world. University of Minnesota Press. Satzewich, V. (1993). Racism & the incorporation of foreign labour: Farm labour migration to Canada since 1945. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 18(4), 467– 469. Scott, J. (1985). Weapons of the weak: Everyday forms of peasant resistance. Yale University Press. Statistics Canada. (2021). Table 14–10–0132–01 Union status by industry (x 1000). Online: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid= 1410013201&pickMembers%5B0%5D=2.2&pickMembers%5B1%5D=4.1& cubeTimeFrame.startYear=2016&cubeTimeFrame.endYear=2020&reference Periods=20160101%2C20200101 Thomas, M. P., Vosko, L. F., Tucker, E., Steedman, M., Noack, A. M., Grundy, J., & Leinveer, L. (2019). The employment standards enforcement gap and the overtime pay exemption in Ontario. Labour: Journal of Canadian Labour Studies/Le Travail: revue d’Études Ouvrières Canadiennes, 84, 25–51. Tomic, P., Trumper, R., & Aguiar, L. L. (2010). Housing regulations and living conditions of Mexican migrant workers in the Okanagan Valley, BC. Canadian Issues/Thèmes Canadiens.

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Tucker, E. (2012). Farm worker exceptionalism: Past, present, and the post-fraser future. In F. Faraday, J. Fudge, & E. Tucker (Eds.), Constitutional labour rights in Canada: Farm workers and the fraser case (pp. 30–56). Irwin Law. Valenzuela-Moreno, K. A. (2018). La protección consular mexicana y la precarización de las y los trabajadores agrícolas temporales en Canadá. Norteamérica, 13(1), 57–78. Vosko, L. F. (2013). National sovereignty and transnational labour: the case of Mexican seasonal agricultural workers in British Columbia, Canada. Industrial Relations Journal, 44(5–6), 514–532. Vosko, L. F. (2018). Legal but deportable: Institutionalized deportability and the limits of collective bargaining among participants in Canada’s seasonal agricultural workers program. ILR Review, 71(14), 882–907. Vosko, L. F., & Spring, C. (2021). COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada and the crisis of migrant farmworkers’ social reproduction: Transnational labour and the need for greater accountability among receiving states. Journal of International Migration and Integration. Vosko, L. F. (2019). Disrupting deportability: Transnational workers organize. Cornell. Vosko, L. F. (Ed.). (2006). Precarious employment: Understanding labour market insecurity in Canada. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP. Vosko, L. F., Tucker, E., & Casey, R. (2019). Enforcing employment standards for migrant agricultural workers in Ontario, Canada: Exposing underexplored layers of vulnerability. International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, 35(2), 227–254.

CHAPTER 4

Transnational Employment Strain in Pandemic Times: Magnified Strains and Insufficient Resources

Abstract In this chapter, we draw on the transnational employment strain approach, advanced in Chapter 2, to illustrate that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing, and contributed to new, employment strains among migrant farmworkers in Canada. Employment demands increased for migrant farmworkers during the health crisis as the working and living environments, transformed by the pandemic, posed greater risk to their physical and mental health. Furthermore, employment became even more insecure for these workers than prior to the pandemic, while employment resources, such as community support, remained limited. Unfortunately, policy interventions implemented at the federal, provincial, and regional levels to contain the virus and protect migrant workers and broader communities often amplified pre-existing or introduced new employment demands because they failed to consider the unique policy frameworks that shape these migrant farmworkers’ employment and living conditions in Canada. They also neglected to account for the contributions these workers make to socioeconomic reproduction of their households while being separated from them across transnational space. Keywords COVID-19 · Migrant farmworkers · Occupational health and safety · Precarious employment · Precarious residency status · Canada

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 L. F. Vosko et al., Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic, Politics of Citizenship and Migration, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17704-0_4

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The COVID-19 pandemic intensified economic disparities across the globe and within national borders. Unlike those who had the privilege of working remotely from home, frontline workers were disproportionately impacted by the spread of the virus. Unsurprisingly, women and workers who identify as non-white often filled frontline positions and as such they were among the least protected individuals, as discussed in Chapter 2. While federal, provincial, and regional government authorities in Canada implemented certain measures to curtail transmission and protect workers and the population at large, for migrant farmworkers, these protections were inadequate, as evidenced by high rates of COVID19 positivity. Thus, while employment demands increased for migrant farmworkers (that is, the working and living environments posed more risk to their physical and mental health and their employment became even more insecure than before the pandemic), employment resources, at best, remained limited and, at worst, amplified pre-existing or introduced new employment demands. Honing in on the nature and dimensions of transnational employment strain among migrant farmworkers in pandemic times, and efforts to mitigate its most deleterious effects, this chapter explores measures taken by government at different scales—the municipal, provincial, and federal levels—to protect the migrant workforce in agriculture and point out their limitations. It also offers an account of migrant farmworkers’ experiences, demonstrating that the pandemic increased employment strains in four ways: it introduced the new risk of COVID-19 transmission in workplaces and in employer-provided dwellings despite government efforts to protect these environments; it magnified the mental and physical health risks associated with employer-provided housing; it heightened workers’ pre-existing fears of employer reprisal and repatriation; and, it reduced earnings and/or introduced new threats of lost income. For migrant farmworkers separated from the support of their families and communities across transnational space and forced to share dwellings with their co-workers in Canada with whom they may have had no previous relationships, the effects of certain pandemic health safety interventions on workers’ emotional and mental well-being were acute. Meanwhile, government interventions to curb the spread of COVID-19 and protect citizens and temporary residents alike, including stay-at-home orders, mandatory vaccinations for international travel, and targeted efforts to test and vaccinate at-risk populations like farmworkers, had certain contradictory effects for farmworkers with precarious residency status on

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account of their institutionalized deportability and insecurity of presence. At the same time, rural communities in which migrant farmworkers were employed routinely failed to provide mental health support (a potential employment resource) to these “essential” workers and, at times, marginalized them even further, magnifying the mental health impacts of the employment strain they sustained.

Increased Occupational Health Risks and Inadequate Protections Complimenting successful efforts to ensure that migrant farmworkers were available and physically present to work during the pandemic via selective border enforcement, throughout the pandemic Canadian government, at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels, introduced protections for migrant farmworkers labouring under intensified employment demands characterized by new risks contributing to strains. As “employment resources,” these protections had the potential buffer and indeed minimized new employment demands. However, overall, government interventions were not particularly effective. Their shortcomings were linked, in part, to the complex jurisdictional framework in which the regulation and protection of temporary migrant labour in agriculture operates, whereby, to recall (see Chapters 1 and 2), the federal government is responsible for the administration of the TFWP, including contracts under the SAWP and housing, as well as income support programs, provincial governments are largely responsible for employment standards and occupational health and safety laws and their enforcement, and regional health units, backed by provincial governments, are responsible for dealing with contagious diseases. In this context, regional public health units took principal responsibility for determining measures and guidelines to protect migrant farmworkers from the spread of COVID19. At the same time, in Ontario, the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development, targeted high-risk workplaces, including farms, with COVID-19-related (occupational health and safety) inspections. Between the onset of the pandemic and December 2020, this Ministry conducted 375 proactive and 95 reactive COVID-19-related inspections on farms and issued 123 COVID-19-related orders to employers in agriculture (Government of Ontario, 2021). Yet, despite these efforts, an inspection blitz in Southern Ontario agricultural hub Windsor-Essex in early 2021

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still found 1 in 5 farms non-compliant with rules around social distancing and masking. In-line with regional public health units’ efforts to establish directives for local businesses, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit published detailed requirements concerning physical distancing, the provision of personal protective equipment, cleaning products, and nutritious meals to protect the safety and well-being of workers during their mandatory selfisolation periods. The Section 22 Order made under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act (1990) also offered directives aimed at minimizing the spread of the virus at the workplace as well as in employerprovided housing after mandatory isolation periods (WECHU, 2020). However, some of these employment resources (e.g., the provision of nutritious meals or physical distancing), were ignored on the farms where the workers we interviewed were employed. A majority of migrant farmworkers that we interviewed indicated that their employers did provide disinfectants as well as personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves. They likewise reported that many employers adopted policies for physical distancing at work, and some even went so far as to install plexiglass partitions in cafeterias. One worker, Andrew, reported that his employer strictly enforced the wearing of masks, noting that anyone discovered working without one was sent home without pay. By contrast, in many other contexts, safety policies and requirements were not strictly enforced, especially those thought to be exhausting and burdensome for workers, such as wearing masks. Physical distancing, meanwhile, was easily maintained during working hours, as workers tended to work alone in different rows or locations in the fields or greenhouses. With such physical distancing measures in place, workers believed that they did not need masks. In the context of Quebec, safety policies and protection measures were unevenly adopted and enforced on smaller farms. None of the workers employed by Quebec-based farms with two or three workers—in one case, five to seven workers—reported having any policies regarding mask usage or physical distancing measures. Additionally, one interviewee told us that their employer, a strawberry farm in Quebec employing up to eighty workers, had no COVID-19 protection measures in place. While COVID-19 policies in Quebec were enforced unevenly, some workers in Ontario reported that their employers went so far as to take their daily temperatures and required them to self-monitor their for symptoms. As soon as the vaccine became widely available, several farms

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required unvaccinated employees to do rapid tests upon entrance to the farm. According to some workers, employers chose not to hire local workers during the pandemic. Instead, some existing employees were assigned tasks undertaken previously by non-migrant farmworkers, such as packing produce, a role typically held by locals.1 Still, some workers stated that they did work side by side with locals regardless of the latter’s vaccination status. When asked if they were concerned about contracting COVID-19 on the job, most workers indicated confidence that the protective measures put in place by their employers would keep them safe. Additionally, given that they were confined to their homes (as explained below), workers believed that they were less likely to contract the virus through community-based spread. All of the migrant farmworkers we interviewed believed that they were well informed about the risks of the virus, due to the information disseminated by employers, as well as supplementary information available online. Yet, some interviewees expressed concerns about lacking safety protocols at work, in bunkhouses, and when in transit to complete errands. For instance, Donald, a self-identified immunocompromised worker, felt that all workers should have been informed when another worker contracted the virus so that others might take additional safety measures, like washing their hands: I was afraid when somebody was diagnosed with COVID, and they didn’t tell us. They didn’t tell us that, “Oh, this person is diagnosed with COVID.” But because we take precautions by washing our hands and we use sanitizer and sanitize our tools…nobody had contracted the virus from the person who had it. But I mean, it should be mandatory to say immediately as you find out that somebody was positive for COVID and mandatory that you tell immediately to the people that work here... So that’s the only thing I was afraid of and upset about it. I was upset. And now I’m afraid of people that are not vaccinated around me. Okay, because as I have asthma, I just never feel comfortable with people that are not vaccinated around me.

Donald’s concerns extended beyond a simple lack of knowledge concerning infected co-workers. He told us that his employer initially provided employees with a box of gloves and masks, free of charge.

1 Migrant farmworkers are usually employed in production and national workers and international students in packing where working conditions are not as demanding.

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However, in the event workers went beyond this quota, the cost was deducted from their pay. Unable to shoulder this extra expense, some workers explained that they used a kerchief instead of purchasing more masks. Donald was especially concerned about close contact with workers residing outside the premises on the farm. He told us, for example, that on the property there were four bunkhouses, each with eight workers. While these workers were meant only to have close contact with their co-habitants, Donald said that, on shopping days, they shared taxis with other workers in nearby bunkhouses. Ten of the workers we interviewed, all but one working in Leamington, Ontario, said that cases of COVID-19 had been reported at their farms, and two workers interviewed, both women, contracted the virus. René, a worker interviewed in Ontario’s Niagara Region informed us about an instance where the virus spread among migrant farmworkers employed in different regional contexts. René’s brother and his co-workers were transferred from a farm near St. Catharine’s, Ontario to another farm, operated by the same employer, in Leamington. As it turned out, several transferred workers were infected with the virus, although they were unaware of their illnesses at the time. Then, eight days after arriving in Leamington some of the transferees began exhibiting symptoms, at which point they had already spread the virus to other workers. Instead of undertaking contact tracing, the employer instructed the transferred workers to keep information about their travels hidden. As René reported, a supervisor told his brother and the other workers, “if someone from the government comes and asks you where you got infected, you just tell them you don’t know.” All migrant workers entering Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 were required by federal regulations to quarantine for 14 days before beginning work (ESDC, 2020). Some workers also shared that, in the event they tested positive or were exposed to a co-worker with a positive test, they too were placed in isolation. Tragically, several workers died during such isolation periods (see Chapter 2). These periods, moreover, proved to be mentally damaging for workers who were in a new country separated from their families, households, or other social supports. Sam, among the many Jamaican workers who had to endure isolation, told us he felt like he was “on death row.” He described the mental hardship he felt as a result of his isolation: If I feel lonely? I feel like I was in jail, and I’ve never been to jail before. Yes, I feel lonely. You wanna hear something? Yes, I did feel very lonely. I

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feel like I wanted to step out of the hotel. I got lonely ‘til my head hurt, cause I’m not used to being in a place for so long not seeing anyone … don’t have anyone to talk to…The quarantine was rough, it was very rough.

Amplified Strains in Employer-Provided Housing In 2020, ESDC issued COVID-19 specific guidance for employerprovided housing for migrant farmworkers, including the provision of separate housing for self-isolating and non-self-isolating workers and mandating that shared accommodations must allow for physical distancing, indicating, for example, that beds “must be at least two metres apart” and that common spaces must be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis (ESDC, 2020, s. 11). Additionally, while ESDC’s guidance around accommodating social distancing and providing separate accommodations for infected workers marked a potentially significant disease prevention intervention, considering employer-provided housing in Canadian agriculture is notoriously poor, it quickly became clear that such “guidelines” lacked teeth and were thereby insufficient. Adding to ESDC’s guidance, provinces also issued recommendations to employers in agriculture seeking to manage on-farm outbreaks. Ontario Ministry of Heath, for instance, recommended that employers limit or decrease congregate housing, organize workers into cohorts, screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms daily, and facilitate physical distancing, among other suggestions (Ministry of Health, 2020). In contrast, Quebec’s Public Health Branch of the Ministry of Health and Social Services issued much stronger recommendations and requirements; for example, it mandated that during mandatory quarantine periods upon arrival, TFWP participants be isolated in individual rooms with private bathrooms, be provided with means of communication and sources of entertainment (video games, radio, or television), as well as food, laundry services, and hygiene products (INSPQ, 2021). The Public Health branch also recommended developing a post-quarantine housing plan that separates contagious and potentially contagious workers from each other as well as from other migrant farmworkers, and asked employers to avoid using dormitories with three or more beds and instead ensure workers are housed in single or double occupancy rooms (INSPQ, 2021). Given the shortcomings of federal and provincial guidance for employers of migrant farmworkers, some farming regions in Ontario also issued COVID-19-related guidelines targeting migrant farmworkers.

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For instance, at the beginning of the pandemic, the medical officer of health in Haldimand-Norfolk implemented requirements, through a Section 22 Order of the Health Protection and Promotion Act (1990), that no more than three workers could be housed together during mandatory self-isolation periods. However, although this requirement may have helped to protect workers isolating upon arrival, it failed to address the ongoing risks of living in bunkhouses during the pandemic (Vosko & Spring, 2021). For instance, after leading an unsuccessful challenge to the Haldimand-Norfolk’s housing requirement (Schuyler Farms Limited v Nesathurai HSARB, 2020; Schuyler Farms Limited v. Dr. Nesathurai ONSC, 2020), local employer Schuyler farms experienced an outbreak in November 2020 involving at least 13 migrant farmworkers (HNHU, 2020; Vosko & Spring, 2021). Other solutions to the risks and limitations posed by employer-provided housing included the creation of a 125-room Isolation and Recovery Centre in Windsor, Ontario, operated by the Canadian Red Cross and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC, 2021)—arguably a band-aid solution that, while providing space for migrant farmworkers to isolate and recover from COVID-19, did nothing to address the sorry state of employer-provided housing in agriculture. Accordingly, as a 2021 Report of the Auditor General Report of Canada reveals, ESDC’s 2020 inspections of farms employing migrant farmworkers found almost all employers compliant with the COVID19 regulatory requirements governing housing even though quarantine inspections had little or no evidence to support a determination of compliance and, in the few instances in which employers were documented to be in violation of these requirements, they were still deemed compliant (Auditor General of Canada, 2021)—an issue that only got worse in the 2021 season. Furthermore, this report finds that outbreak inspections were not conducted in a timely manner and, in a majority of cases, did not contain evidence on whether or not employers provided sick or symptomatic workers with separate accommodations to self-isolate. These findings are consistent with past scholarly research that underscores shortcomings in the pre-pandemic compliance-based federal enforcement and inspection regime for temporary migrant workers, such as migrant farmworkers (Marsden et al., 2021). The persistence of poor housing conditions came into public view early on during the pandemic. For instance, national news outlets reported on a video taken by a migrant farmworker on June 16, 2020 revealing living

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conditions in a Windsor-Essex bunkhouse that did not allow for physical distancing: bunkbeds separated by cardboard and bedsheets positioned only a few feet apart (CBC News, 2020; J4MW, 2020)2 ; other workers, upon contracting COVID-19, described to the Globe and Mail “overcrowded living conditions, including small bedrooms with multiple sets of bunk beds” as well as “ill workers living with healthy ones, leaky toilets, and showers that only ran hot water” (Baum & Grant, 2020). Moreover, migrant farmworkers living in employer-provided accommodations reported that their employers required them to remain in bunkhouses during their time off work and prohibited them to ride their bicycles or go grocery shopping (Hennebry et al., 2020; Mojtehedzadeh, 2020). When it came to safety provisions and policies in employer-provided housing, most of the workers that we interviewed said that very little was done to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In some cases disinfectants were provided, although it was virtually impossible to practice physical distancing in cramped congregate housing, wherein workers shared bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. Only one worker we interviewed stated that their employer-provided additional dwellings to separate workers during the pandemic in an effort to minimize the effects of overcrowding. While there were two instances in which workers reported lower occupancy rates due to the pandemic, reductions in bunkhouse occupancy, as a means of preventing the spread of COVID19, were unusual. Rather, the main strategy of virus prevention utilized by employers was the confinement of workers to their houses, as well as limiting, or outright prohibiting, visitors. Prior to the pandemic, many farmworkers living and working in remote, rural communities spent the majority of their free time outside of work in their bunkhouses. Those located within proximity to Leamington were an exception as the small town is accessible by bicycle or taxi from many surrounding farms, and provides migrant farmworkers with a variety culinary, social, cultural, and recreational activities (Basok & George, 2021). These resources, including sporting events and the like, provide a much-needed release from workers’ daily employment demands. Being confined to their bunkhouses during the pandemic, especially during periods in which restrictions were lifted, not only infringed on workers’ rights to freedom 2 Similarly in Quebec, a concern was raised in the media with regards to the housing standards established by Quebec’s National Institute for Public Health (INSPQ) and inadequate provisions for physical distancing (Champagne, 2021).

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of movement but denied them the resources they required to buffer employment strain. Furthermore, being obligated to spend all of their free time with their co-workers exacerbated pre-existing tensions among workers. Separated from their families and with limited access to moral support from others, many migrants found isolation particularly difficult to bear. At the same time, workers who violated these strict rules risked being disciplined: employers used minor infractions as grounds for dismissal or other forms of punishment that resulted in the loss of income. All of the workers we interviewed in the Windsor-Essex region were prevented from leaving the farms on which they lived and laboured; in some cases, this meant periods of forced confinement of up to a full year and a half. This occurred even as the region moved through a staged re-opening of businesses and public spaces,3 which had been ordered to stop in-person activities at the beginning of the pandemic. In this context, some workers were granted permission to leave their worksites for grocery shopping however, they were given strict time limits of either thirty minutes or an hour, after which they were expected to be back on the farm. In most cases, workers were driven to town for their groceries in a company van, whereas in other situations, they had to resort to shared taxis.4 Still other farms adopted different methods; for example, one farm 3 Following a months-long closure of companies and public institutions, as well as limitations on social gatherings, on May 19, 2020, the province of Ontario began removing stay-at-home orders, extending capacity limits, and progressively eliminating certain other restrictions in a staged and regional approach. Because of substantial on-farm outbreaks in both communities, Leamington and the neighbouring municipality of Kingsville, where many migrant farmworkers are employed, were required to uphold more restrictive Stage 1 restrictions even when Windsor-Essex shifted to Stage 2 of re-opening. On July 7, 2020, Leamington and Kingsville were authorized to advance to Stage 2, making them the last municipalities in Ontario to do so. For a timeline of re-opening stages in the Windsor-Essex region, see Borrelli (2022). 4 To make matters worse, those allowed to leave farms often confronted forms of xenophobic profiling and policing of visits to grocery stores and other amenities; this profiling reflected earlier municipal interventions contributing to new pandemic-related employment demands, such as the Haldimand-Norfolk County public health unit’s issuance (in May 2020) of ID cards to migrant workers, the majority of whom were farmworkers, indicating they had completed their 14-day isolation period (Craggs, 2020). While shortlived, this ‘carding’ practice encouraged local residents to interrogate migrant farmworkers and police their social inclusion and/or exclusion on the grounds of protecting the local community, despite the fact that many contracted COVID-19 after arriving in Canada (Hennebry et al., 2020).

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used a weekly rotation system where three workers at a time were selected to do the shopping for the rest of the house. On the farms that restricted workers from leaving the house entirely, workers made their shopping lists, and food was delivered to them. Workers reported dissatisfaction when food was selected for them by other people, be it other workers or employers. This dissatisfaction flowed mainly from the fact that they did not receive the items they wanted and/or prices were excessively high. At times, employers ordered food from stores where the selection of culturally appropriate food was more limited. Some workers tried to put these restrictions into perspective. According to Daniel, “it was as if we were in prison, but for our own good, right? Well, we didn’t have the right to leave, because, if we were to leave, we would endanger the company, and other co-workers and who knows how many other families.” Some workers found this type of isolation intolerable but, were they not to adhere to the rules, they were threatened with significant employer reprisals. As Matías explained, “If someone went into town to do shopping or something, they were sent to do quarantine, and they were not paid while they were not working.” Similarly, Abel commented, “During the pandemic, you couldn’t leave the house to go anywhere. It was prohibited. And if you were to leave, he [the employer] got angry and reprimanded you.” Abel contextualized these restrictions and repercussions as “it was for our own good.” Though a few farmers allowed workers to get outside and ride their bicycles along the road, so long as they didn’t go into town, many farmers did not permit workers to leave the premises for any reason, as mentioned above. Ricky recounted what happened when he could no longer tolerate this confinement. Before we got vaccinated, I left the farm one day. It was just one kilometer from the house. It was just along the road. There was nothing but farmland. I rode my bicycle. I just cycled one kilometer from the house and came back. I just needed to clear my head... But since the employer lives close to the farm ... he saw me as he drove by. He stopped and asked me, “what are you doing here?” I told him that I was very bored in the house, and I needed to ride my bicycle. He asked me if I was going into town, and I said “no, I am not going there, boss.”

Still, Ricky’s disobedience was not tolerated. His employer ordered him to return to the bunkhouse immediately. Indeed, this employer did not even allow workers deemed fully vaccinated (i.e., at the time, two vaccine

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doses) off the farm, especially if they sought to socialize and interact with local residents. Another worker reported not even being allowed to leave the house, which triggered his depression. A few workers questioned the legality of these restrictions and confinement, such as Donald, who undertook an online search to determine if these policies violated any Canadian laws. The workers on Andrew’s farm did the same: You know, when it was like at Stage 4 [of the re-opening of the province of Ontario], you know everybody could meet up like five persons? We had to like search the internet to get that kinda information, they didn’t come out and say “oh you know you can go out and stuff like that, stay safe, we’re not gonna keep you here.” So they did not give us that information. We have to do that and go out on our own. And then there was kind of tension because there are people that if you go out they are gunna tell the supervisor. So then that’s when we had to tell the supervisor that hey, the law say that people can go out and that no employer should restrict their workers from going out and stuff like that.

Confinement impacted the mental health of many migrant farmworkers. Many reported feeling worried, unhappy, restless, depressed, sad, tense, or simply bored, being forced to stay home all the time. Several workers compared it to imprisonment and complained about not being able to get their minds off work. The following accounts represent examples of how confinement during the pandemic affected workers emotionally: We no longer had the liberty to spend time with our friends, to go out as we did before the pandemic. I think it really impacted us. (Ezequiel) In such a free and sovereign country, slavery felt like death. Many left. Many left the job. Many fell into depression. There were all kinds of things. Some of us endured. Some of us needed a psychologist. I met with a psychologist. There was a moment when I said: “f… it”. And I locked myself up, I wasn’t going to work anymore, I stayed locked up, drinking. and I already said: “f… it.” And in May of last year, precisely on May 10, my mother passed away, so I said: “Yes. It’s over. I’m going”. And three very important people here in this company went personally to greet me and talk to me. And they encouraged me to hang in and I went to see a psychologist. (Ron) It was a drastic change. We were all used to going into town when we finished work early. We would go into town. Go to a café. Or just walk, to clear my head (divagar mi mente)… And when we couldn’t go out anymore, being at

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the house all the time, just walking around the house on the farm property, and nothing else, not going into town, well this was a drastic change. I am one of those people who likes going for coffee or to a park, or something else, to see friends, go to a supermarket to buy clothes or whatever, but just to change the environment, get away from work, to get your mind off it. So, it was difficult to be confined and not be able to go out. But we also understood that it was best for everyone, right? This way we would not get infected. If no one got infected, then we could all continue to work as all of us would be healthy... the truth is that in the first few months it was very hard to get used to the life we had; we were just allowed to go to a supermarket for half an hour and then back. The truth is that it was too stressful. Very stressful. We felt confined, we felt imprisoned. (Ricky)

Working longer hours during the pandemic meant that some workers did not even have the chance to miss social activities, as Donald explained: Not being able to socialize with other people was kind of tense. Yeah, kind of tense. So we never have time to worry about it because we were working long hours, right? So when we leave work, come home, prepare food and take a shower, go sleep. So we never miss anything.

Other workers emphasized how their seclusion at the height of the pandemic was not significantly different than the seclusion they felt before the onset of the global health crisis. Matías explained: The change was not that we were locked up and could not leave. In general, we only go out once a week to do shopping. Of course, they say “let’s go and you can only go out for a limited time.” So all people were shocked and alarmed and many started complaining. Why? Well, but looking at it from the perspective of how things were before the pandemic, well, it was just one day per week that we could go out, so it wasn’t a problem.

Nevertheless, Matías conceded, later in the same interview, that workers’ mental health was harmed by the forced confinement: It was very stressful. We all live in the same house and even though we don’t go out much, but the fact of knowing that we could not go out on Fridays to do shopping or on Sunday, the day to do shopping, it made us feel stressed out, feel locked up here, as if we were in prison. We were saying, “why do they not let us go out as if we in prison, why do they not let us go out?” We are just here in the house and at work, and from work to the house and that’s

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all. It was very stressful. And it caused problems among the co-workers, and it was because we could not go out... We used to live like this before as well, but we felt even more confined during the pandemic... And so people felt very unhappy that they had to share the house with other workers, because they had to spent too much time with them without leaving, and so they felt unhappy.

Therefore, initiatives and policies enacted to safeguard the health and well-being of migrant farmworkers that do not take into consideration their transnational lives can have unintended consequences, potentially exacerbating the employment strain they face. A prime example is the stayat-home orders and obligatory isolation periods introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect individuals and communities from virus transmission. As workers’ narratives illustrate, these policies produced additional demands for migrant farmworkers, including a higher toll on mental health and increased limitations on mobility, such as the ability to spend periods of rest and leisure outside of employer-provided, on-farm housing. Many migrant farmworkers we interviewed identified some coping mechanisms they utilized for dealing with the stress of isolation periods. Strategies included drawing, listening to music, reading, talking to family and friends, helping their children with their homework over the phone, studying, praying, reading the Bible, attending religious services online, watching TV, focusing on work, listening to motivational podcasts, exercising, and developing hobbies. Workers adopting such strategies reported that these methods alleviated the stress and loneliness induced by isolation and confinement to a shared area, conditions that contributed greatly to a blurring (or elimination) of any delineation between work and home. Yet, in the absence of community or other social supports (as detailed below), the strain was tough to bear for most workers.

Heightened Insecurity: Reprisals, Dismissals, and Repatriation The COVID-19 pandemic amplified migrant farmworkers’ deportability and fears of deportation for medical reasons or non-compliance. Medical repatriations were already common among migrant farmworkers before the pandemic (Orkin et al., 2014), and, unsurprisingly, some workers that we interviewed were concerned that if they had contracted the virus, they

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would be deported back to their home countries. As a result, to circumvent deportation and the related loss of income, some workers attempted to evade such procedures as testing or monitoring, particularly if they had minor or no sign of symptoms. In the wake of large outbreaks and two COVID-19-related deaths in Windsor-Essex County in June 2020, Leamington hospital Erie Shores Healthcare opened an assessment centre to test migrant farmworkers (CBC News, 2020). It was expected that the workers would arrive on a bus to have their temperature checked and get swabbed for the virus. Yet, nine days later, only 750 of the expected 8,000 workers had been tested, and the centre was closed down (CBC News, 2020). While this closure sought to safeguard agricultural workers from the spread of the virus (and thereby diminish the pandemic-induced employment strain), it neglected the unique insecurities confronting migrant farmworkers. Ricky explained why many migrant farmworkers hesitated to embrace these safeguards, indicating that the prospect of losing their jobs, returning to their home countries, or dying in isolation were important factors to consider. What happened was that there were rumors that if you were to have a test, you would get the virus entering your body, and if you were to test positive, you would be sent back to Mexico. They would lock you up and then send you back to Mexico, with your contract terminated and not being able to stay in Canada. There were lots of rumors. And that’s why we were afraid to get tested, because if we tested positive, the company wouldn’t pay you, isolate you, and if you were to die, it would be very complicated, and the government wouldn’t help in any way.

Matías acknowledged that the reluctance to get tested was attributed to some irrational fears: They were saying that the test was making them sick. They were saying that they had friends on other farms, and on other farms they were testing workers and they were testing positive even though they had been locked up in their houses with no contact with the outside. They didn’t even go out shopping. They had no contact with the outside. And so they were saying why do it if they were going to test positive?

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At the same time, Matías pointed out that this behaviour was not tolerated by the employers and that those who did not comply with employermandated testing (whether their reluctance was due to irrational fears or other reasons) were disciplined: And when they were forcing us to do it, two or three refused. It was not mandatory, when since they refused, they were sent to do 14 days of selfisolation without pay.

Some migrant farmworkers mentioned that they would not be allowed to work if they did not consent to being vaccinated. In fact, vaccination hesitancy among some Caribbean workers interviewed and their co-workers made them deportable for non-compliance with the employers’ expectations. Unvaccinated workers were advised that they were to depart by November 30, 2021.5 Ella, a Jamaican worker employed in a Leamington greenhouse, blamed the Canadian federal government for this decision even though Canada does permit unvaccinated migrant workers to return to work in agriculture (see for e.g., Ontario Ministry of Health, 2022). She said: If you’re not vaccinated, then you can’t return back. [Question: did the government give you trouble in coming back?] They did. They come up with the law. The rules, if you’re not vaccinated, then you are not allowed in the country anymore. A lot of workers had to leave the country by the 30th of November. Because they weren’t vaccinated and they choose not to be vaccinated, so they have to leave the country by that date. So that’s the thing that I am really strongly against.... Because the government says it’s not about being tested anymore. It’s about being vaccinated. If you’re not vaccinated, then you can’t travel on the plane or the train.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many regulations and restrictions were put in place to protect citizens and residents from the virus. Ironically, some public health measures and the arbitrary ways they were enforced by the employers or migrant farmworkers had unintended consequences of rendering these workers more precarious, thus increasing, rather than decreasing, their employment strain. For instance, workers 5 This requirement to depart coincided with the introduction of Public Health Agency of Canada regulations that made vaccination a requirement for travel within and out of Canada.

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who disobeyed mandatory confinement rules set unilaterally by employers who forbade their workers to leave their dwelling under any circumstances were disciplined. Far exceeding recommendations made by public health authorities, such precautionary measures exemplified power imbalances characterizing this labour importation program, which deprives workers of voice. When Ricky disobeyed his employer’s order to remain in the house at all times even after he received two vaccines, he paid a high price. While on vacation after the first year of this second two-year contract, he received a message from his employer telling him that he was not to return to work in Canada. Among the reasons for firing him, his employer mentioned that Ricky “went out with girls in town,” and that in his employer’s view, this act constituted a violation of the COVID-19 restrictions. In their analysis of the competition between migrant farmworkers from the same or different countries, Basok et al. (2014) observe that in an effort to secure their own future contracts, some migrants engage in action to undermine employment security of others. In the research conducted for this book, competition between workers does not emerge as a prominent theme. Rather, legally authorized SAWP and AS participants feared contagion—specifically, from undocumented workers—which they viewed as a threat to maintaining employment. Ricardo, employed in a greenhouse in Leamington, told us how he and his co-workers convinced their farm owners not to hire undocumented workers. In these workers’ eyes, undocumented workers posed danger to migrant farmworkers’ health because they were hired by Leamington area farms through labour contractors and often moved from farm to farm, and thus perceived as vectors of COVID-19 contagion by local health authorities, municipal authorities, and the population at large (i.e., often shunned rather than protected) (Gatehouse, 2020). As Ricardo narrated: We were given an opportunity to talk to the farm owners. And we told them that if they are making restrictions for us, that they too should make sure that they do not hire [undocumented] workers from contractors. We respect company rules, but the workers sent to the company by contractors, they are free to go wherever they want after work. And that, we said, it not fair. They would go anywhere they want while we are being cautious, and then these persons would just come and infect us. So, we did not see it as something that was fair.

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Ricardo and his coworkers did not ask their employers to ensure that workers without legal status were offered more secure positions on their farms, eliminating the need for them to move from one farm to another. Nor did they call for stricter COVID-19 protocols to be adopted at work to prevent the spread of the virus. Instead, workers with relatively greater security (i.e., those on a legal employment contract) called for those with less security (i.e., those without legal authorization) to lose access to employment. Such calls, by migrant farmworkers enrolled in the SAWP or the AS, for employers to eliminate their co-workers lacking legal authorization from their workforces reveal yet another employment demand linked to differential inclusion—namely, the limits on or impediments to solidarity among workers holding different legal statuses, unity that might have been a resource to buffer against employment demands under different circumstances. In the context of Ontario, moreover, worker solidarity is further undermined by the absence of farmworkers’ rights to form unions and bargain collectively and other shortcomings of the AEPA described above.

Reduced Earnings and Insufficient Income Supports In March 2020, ESDC outlined temporary guidelines to which employers of migrant workers were to adhere. One intervention was the decision to mandate and subsidize temporary income replacement during a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival. In an effort to assist farmers, fish harvesters, and all food production and processing employers employing migrant farmworkers, the federal government provided funding amounting to $1500 per worker subject to self-isolation upon arrival. During isolation periods, employers of migrant farmworkers were to compensate workers for 30 hours a week, at the hourly rate of pay stipulated contractually (ESDC, 2020), and thus this subsidy was to be used to cover both wages and accommodation costs. The federal guidelines also indicated that employers could not authorize workers to labour during the quarantine period, regardless of the nature of the work available (i.e., tasks otherwise presumed to be acceptable during self-isolation, such as administrative tasks, were not to be performed). This mandatory paid 14-day quarantine period on arrival represented a significant measure of protection for migrant farmworkers, normally excluded fully or partially from short- and long-term income supports. And yet, for those working

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typically 50–60 hours per week, compensation equivalent to 30 hours translated into major income loss, squeezing remittances sent home to their family members left behind, as acknowledged by those we interviewed. For workers that had to go in quarantine again, either because they or their co-workers tested positive for COVID-19, earnings were reduced even further. In 2021, the guidelines were updated to include a new provision barring employers from “deny[ing] assistance if the foreign worker requires the employer to assist with access to necessities of life” during the mandatory quarantine period (ESDC, 2020).6 However, “necessities of life” were interpreted loosely. Some workers complained about the quality of food they received while in quarantine. In cases of the workers placed in the Isolation and Recovery Centre in Windsor, Ontario, the Red Cross provided food. This food was generally of good quality, although it did not correspond to the workers’ cultural preferences. For those who were quarantined on the farms or in hotels, the quality of the food provided to them by their employers varied. Some workers disapproved of the frozen food they received and would have preferred their food to be fresh. Some complained that they had the same food every day. And in some cases, the food delivered was rotten. Alberto commented on the food his employer had delivered to them: The food was horrible. Their employer ordered it from a Latino restaurant in Leamington. But the food we received was rotten. Instead, we asked for fruit. And that’s how we survived, eating just some rice and fruit.

In many cases, the cost of food that the employer provided without consultation with the workers was subsequently discounted from their pay cheque. While migrant farmworkers often shop at supermarkets or other superstores (such as Walmart) where food prices are reduced, the employers purchased food for them at higher prices without much consideration for the workers’ limited budgets. Gisella was frustrated to see her pay cheque being used to cover her additional living expenses when in quarantine:

6 In a move notable for its recognition of the need to better protect employer and time specific work permit holders’ conditions of employment, the 2021 update to ESDC’s guidelines, ESDC included a requirement that the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period is additional to the minimum 240 hours of pay specified in the SAWP contract.

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We were paid for 30 hours a week during the quarantine but with this money we had to pay for the hotel, food, and swabs; there was nothing left. With that money we paid for everything.

Even though migrant farmworkers contribute to Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) system, and, as such, are entitled to certain special benefits (i.e., Sickness, Compassionate/Caregivers’ and Parental Benefits), requirements for an ongoing work permit and social insurance number (SIN), together with qualifying requirements tied to duration of employment, frequently mean that they are ineligible for such benefits as well as for the regular EI benefits to which they contribute. Thus, although migrant farmworkers were technically entitled to the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB), prior income requirements and other eligibility criteria that assumed recipients to be citizens engaged in ongoing employment relationships made the benefit inaccessible to some. One situation, exemplifying the effects of such limitations, is found in the case of a group of SAWP workers from Trinidad and Tobago, who were stranded in Canada in December 2020 due to travel restrictions. Initially, on the basis of a qualifying requirement pegged to hours of work for a specified period (shown to make regular EI benefits inaccessible to many temporary and part-time workers, both those residing permanently in Canada and migrating to work therein [Vosko, 2012]), these workers were unable to access income support via EI; that is, despite being physically present in Canada after their contracts came to an end, their employer-specific work permits, which prevent migrant farmworkers from seeking employment elsewhere, made it impossible for them to be “ready and available for work”—a key requirement for eligibility for income replacement (Keung, 2020).7 Climate disasters (both within Canada and sending states) during and beyond the pandemic further illustrate the need for income support in the form of EI for migrant farmworkers whose work and/or travel might be interrupted. For instance, in 2021, flooding 7 In March 2020, Trinidad and Tobago closed its borders to all international flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but 505 essential Trinidadian workers were still permitted to travel to Canada under the SAWP to fill jobs integral to the nation’s food supply (IRCC, 2022). Yet these Trinidadian SAWP workers lost access to income in Fall 2020 when the harvest season ended until December 15, 2020—the same day SAWP workers’ employerspecific work permits expire annually—when IRCC introduced a special provision that allowed the stranded workers to apply for an open work permit which would make them EI eligible until their departure (Vosko & Spring, 2021).

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in the Sumas Prairie, an agricultural hub in British Columbia, resulted in the evacuation of flooded farms, prompting repatriation and/or unemployment for hundreds of migrant farmworkers without access to income supports (Grochowski, 2021; Xu, 2021). While neither CERB nor Employment Insurance was available to migrant workers during COVID-19, other temporary wage-loss supports, including those provided by Quebec’s Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) and Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), were extended at that time to migrant farmworkers who had to remain in quarantine due to COVID-19. As of December 2021, 2,796 lost-time claims related to COVID-19 in agriculture were allowed by WSIB since the beginning of the pandemic (WSIB, 2021), and, while industry-specific data was not available in Quebec at the time of writing, in 2020 CNESST recognized across industry 11,717 of 16,614 COVID-19-related claims (CNESST, 2020). However, among the workers we interviewed only one received temporary wage-loss support via WSIB even though seven other workers were placed in quarantine due to COVID-19. Loss of income was an important concern that arose during the pandemic. When workers took leave from work due to side effects, in most cases they were not paid for the missed hours of work. Donald might have been an exception to the rule. Unlike many other migrant farmworkers, he was aware of income replacement available through Ontario’s WSIB, which provided coverage for a three-day leave following vaccination for the workers who experienced side effects (WSIB, 2022). Predictably, for those migrants without legal status, government-provided income support was not accessible. For one non-status worker who tested positive for COVID-19, along with her parents and her sister, financial assistance was not an option; she had to rely on an extended family member—her uncle—to survive during her recovery and throughout the mandatory two-week quarantine. Only Alberto told us that workers on his farm were able to make up for the lost income while in quarantine. Upon completion of the 14-day period, they were asked to work longer hours than usual, and all workers were invited to stay for an extra month. Alberto found these long hours to be exhausting and an extra month of separation from his family difficult. Yet, similar to pre-pandemic times, he and his co-workers put up with these additional employment demands in order to secure their families’ well-being. Many other workers were not able to compensate for the lost

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wages. Furthermore, in the case of some workers (e.g., on dairy farms in Quebec), hours of work and consequently incomes were lost due to the reduced market demand for their produce during the pandemic. Possible temporary loss of earnings was one reason why many migrant farmworkers refused to be tested. They feared that if they were to test positive, they would be asked to quarantine and would not be paid any form of income support while in quarantine, despite the fact that they were formally entitled to some compensation. This fear of losing income was one reason why most migrant farmworkers in the Leamington area chose not to be tested at the Erie Shores Healthcare assessment centre (as discussed above).

“Essential” but Excluded from Employment Resources Provided to Frontline Workers While migrant farmworkers were exempt from travel restriction because they were recognized as “essential” workers, the pay they received during the pandemic did not reflect their value to the Canadian society—even though many believed they deserved to be paid more either because they were assigned the work with greater responsibilities or because they felt their work was integral to sustaining Canada’s food supply. In 2020, between April and August, in Ontario many frontline workers received a $4 per hour pay increase (Government of Ontario, 2020). Yet, farmworkers, regardless of their citizenship/residency status and the nature of their contracts of employment, were not deemed eligible for a pay increase. Donald, a Jamaican migrant worker, found this exclusion unacceptable: I think we would all feel better [if we received extra pay] because we are essential workers… Because if we don’t do it, there’s no produce to go home. I think that we are essential workers and we can get 50 cents or a dollar extra... And even though we hear that the government says that we are essential worker, there is no incentive. Well, even at the end of the month and say, “OK, here’s that extra $50 gift card”.

Similarly, Daniel, a Honduran man employed by a Leamington greenhouse, felt they deserved a pandemic bonus: “We need more support from the government. An incentive or bonus, or something like this, right? A

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pandemic bonus.” In fact, on April 15, 2020, Quebec implemented a $45million program to recruit residents into farm work with a $100 weekly bonus. Even though this bonus was introduced to attract national workers to agricultural jobs, under this program, migrant workers employed on farms were entitled to receive it. Yet, among the migrants we interviewed in Quebec, only three of eleven eligible interviewees actually received the additional pay of $100 per week. Ezequiel listed some reasons for not receiving it: I found out about it from some co-workers that had applied, but I never received it. When I asked my boss, I was told that I had to fill out forms, and there were certain requirements. But I didn’t do it and did not receive it. It seemed too complicated for me; there were things I did not understand; it was all in French.

This potential employment resource for migrant farmworkers was either not applicable (as in Ontario) or not fully realized (as in Quebec), while overall earnings eroded during the pandemic.

Wider Community: Employment Demand or Resource? While migrant farmworkers experienced additional employment strain during the COVID-19 crisis, they received very little support from local communities to relieve it. Well before the pandemic, migrant farmworkers in the Leamington area and Quebec experienced exclusion within the local communities (see, Basok & George, 2021; Bélanger & Candiz, 2015). For example, settlement services and other formal and informal social supports alleviating employment strain were inaccessible to them due to their temporary residency status, as explored in Chapter 2. In response to COVID-19, some communities in Ontario, such as Windsor-Essex, were able to draw on federal and provincial funding opportunities to provide short-term support for migrant farmworkers. These initiatives funded areas such as mental health support, language translation services, and modest advances in migrant workers’ healthcare access through methods such as mobile clinics. Two short-term initiatives are of note: first, a cross-Canada program sponsored by KAIROS, a faith-based advocacy group, and financed by ESDC, supplied workers with information, education, and a growing number of resources aimed

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at grassroots organizations in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Second, a “Migrant and Temporary Worker Initiative,” funded by the IRCC, allowed the Windsor-Essex Partnership Immigration Council to expand their scope to include migrant farmworkers in their organizational mandate as well as facilitated the advancement of community supports. However, neither initiative generated a system of support or meaningful and sustainable employment resources. Rather, they reflected band-aid approaches responding to COVID-19 reinforcing the structure of TFWP and its agricultural subprograms and the precariousness in employment and residency status the programs engender (George, 2022). Furthermore, as workers’ accounts show, these measures and initiatives were insufficient and only reached a fraction of the 10,000 migrant farmworkers in Windsor-Essex. Workers’ sense of isolation was reportedly heightened during the pandemic, although there were some exceptions. Some workers recalled that church-based organizations (and, in one case, a bakery) dropped off supplies such as food, masks, and disinfectants. These workers reported efforts like this as helpful, although they desired more robust supports such as professional psychological services, more PPE, transportation, translation of pamphlets written in English, and pharmaceutical drugs. Ron underscored the unmet need for psychological support: Well, they failed us. If they had put a permanent therapist here, things would have been easier for several of us. We were left on our own to seek information, not knowing English, not being from this country. I feel they failed us, and if we had had that attention, that moral support for the workers, so many people would not have left. It’s my point of view, right?

Matías likewise suggested that social and emotional supports would have been useful during the pandemic. The workers needed someone to talk to. A lot of workers did not talk about what was happening or they did not have anyone to talk to, they did not feel comfortable telling others how they were feeling.

Given the media’s frequent references to migrant farmworkers as “essential,” we asked workers if they saw a shift in local communities’ attitudes towards them, that is, if locals extended more appreciation and respect. Bearing in mind the extent to which migrant farmworkers were

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forcibly confined for lengthy periods, it is predictable that many workers were unable to interact with local community members and thus identified no change in their treatment. That said, workers like Orlando and Ricky did comment on feeling a new sense of appreciation by a select few residents: Well, I think some people did treat us differently. This year I was helping out my employer at his store. And one lady told me: “Thanks to you Mexicans, we have food, because you come to work here.” So, she told me she appreciated us. But for others, it was the same as before. (Orlando) A few times a bakery, I don’t remember the name, they brought us a basket of bread, because we were not allowed to leave during the pandemic. And it’s not so much the products, but the people saw it as a way of showing to us that we mattered to them. That’s how I saw this support. That after all, that they were interested in us as human beings in addition to recognizing the important work that we do. (Ricky)

Such gestures and expressions of gratitude, albeit uncommon, partially alleviated the strain that COVID-19-related anxieties and restrictions imposed on migrant farmworkers, serving as an employment resource. Unfortunately, however, the local community, as a whole, also functioned as a source of additional strain. Local community members’ hostility towards migrant farmworkers predated the COVID-19 outbreak; yet many workers reported that, during the pandemic, residents’ fears of migrant farmworkers escalated. Ron perceived this phenomenon as racist: “They saw all Mexicans as ugly or something. As if we bring the disease.” Donald agreed, describing how Leamington residents treated migrant farmworkers during the pandemic; however, he was hesitant to outright classify locals’ actions as “racist”: I witnessed migrant workers walking in the street. And I see Canadian community members. They’re going down and they walk to the street where a car could hit them because they don’t walk past the migrant workers. And I was like, “oh, this is so bad.” They are unmasked and the migrant workers are unmasked. But yet you don’t have to walk on the street where vehicle can hit you.

When asked to explain this behaviour, he noted:

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To me, it’s not racist. No, it’s not. I wouldn’t say it’s racist…They think that, oh, they’re coming from countries that have virus. I see it happen on several occasions and one time it happened to me and I stopped the person, I said: “It hurts when you do stuff like that, because one, I would think that you’re racist. Two, I think that you scorn me. Three, it looks like I have a disease.” And the person said, “No, no, no. It’s just my thing because you guys are from a different country. You just came here.” But some of us are here for two years. Yeah. All of us is here before COVID came and we’re still here. You don’t know. Yeah, I can’t. What would you feel if you were walking on the sidewalk and [I] pitched into the bush because I don’t want you to walk past me? How would you feel? And then near the end, when she said, “I would feel that way because I would think that you scorn me.” So, I said, “that’s how I feel, with what you did a while ago”.

A lack of community resources dedicated to serving the needs of migrant farmworkers, coupled with increased strain caused by the hostile community environment, exemplify the climate in which transnational migrants work. In summary, during the pandemic, migrant farmworkers experienced new employment demands that exacerbated those demands predating the pandemic. These added demands included the heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 in employer-provided housing, fear of medical repatriation following a positive test, reduced income during prolonged quarantine, and excessive forced isolation from their communities. Unfortunately, no community resources were made available to workers to offset these added employment demands related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, although some COVID-19-related public policy interventions aimed to increase employment resources for migrant farmworkers, given that pre-existing immigration and labour laws, policies, and practices, were largely unaltered during the pandemic, in practice, established and new employment resources diminished among this group. Moreover, policies introduced to better protect migrant farmworkers’ health and well-being failed to account for their transnational lives and, as such, they had perverse effects, amplifying their employment strain. While the stay-at-home orders and mandatory isolation periods implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic sought to protect individuals and communities from the spread of the virus, they simultaneously produced additional demands (intensified forms of confinement; increased toll on mental health) and circumscribed integral resources (including the ability

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to leave employer-provided on-farm housing during periods of rest and leisure). According to the employment strain model, a reduction in employment resources in an occupation characterized by high employment demands is expected to contribute to greater strains on already strained workers. As illustrated above, there are limited employment resources, such as income support, available to migrant farmworkers to buffer these strains and, while those social benefits available via certain streams of the TFWP (such as access to healthcare services) have the potential to alleviate strain and support well-being, they are not readily accessible. Moreover, because, on account of their residency status, migrant farmworkers are excluded from settlement services afforded to immigrant newcomers, including language training (Hennebry & Preibisch, 2012; Rajkumar et al., 2012; Roberts, 2020), there is no system of support enabling workers to access the care that their entitlement to health insurance is to provide. Supports needed for workers to access care in cases of workplace injury, illness, and mental health (such as language translation, transportation, and healthcare access) are poorly funded, limited, ad hoc, uneven, and, in some instances, absent (Caxaj & Cohen, 2019; Caxaj et al., 2022; Colindres et al., 2021). For the most part, the protections provided via federal and provincial interventions to address COVID-19 reproduced these pre-existing gaps.

References Auditor General of Canada. (2021). Report 13: Health and safety of agricultural temporary foreign workers in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/docs/parl_oag_202112_02_e.pdf Basok, T., Bélanger, D., & Rivas, E. (2014). Reproducing deportability: Migrant agricultural workers in South-Western Ontario. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40(9), 1394–1413. Basok, T., & George, G. (2021). “We are part of this place, but I do not think I belong”: Temporariness, social inclusion and belonging among migrant farmworkers in Southwestern Ontario. International Migration, 59(5), 99–112. https://doi.org/10.1111/imig.12804 Baum, K., & Grant, T. (2020, June 16). Essential but expendable: How Canada failed migrant farm workers. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobea ndmail.com/canada/article-essential-but-expendable-how-canada-failed-mig rant-farm-workers/

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Bélanger, D., & Candiz, G. (2015). Fraises douces amères: territoire et précarité chez les travailleurs agricoles migrants de la région de Québec. Cahiers De Géographie Du Québec, 59(166), 7–28. Borrelli, M. (2022). How many lockdowns? Timeline of COVID-19 restrictions in Windsor-Essex. CTV News Windsor. https://windsor.ctvnews.ca/how-manylockdowns-timeline-of-covid-19-restrictions-in-windsor-essex-1.5464845 Caxaj, S., & Cohen, A. (2019). “I will not leave my body here”: Migrant farmworkers’ health and safety amidst a climate of coercion. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(15), 2643. Caxaj, S., Tran, M., Tew, M., Mayell, S., McLaughlin, J., Rawal, S., Cole, D., & Vosko, L. F. (2022). Key findings and recommendations from a study of coroner’s files of migrant agricultural workers’ deaths in Ontario from January 2020 to June 2021. https://www.ohcow.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/ 02/coroner_study_key_findings_recs_final_v2.pdf CBC News. (2020). COVID-19 assessment centre for migrant farm workers closing as cases among population climb. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/ covid19-assessment-centre-closing-temporary-foreign-workers-1.5615311 Champagne, S. R. (2021). Les éclosions augmentent chez les travailleurs étrangers temporaires. Le Devoir. https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/sante/ 606177/covid-19-les-eclosions-augmentent-chez-les-travailleurs-etrangerstemporaires CNESST. (2020). Statistiques annuelles 2020. Government of Quebec. https:// www.centredoc.cnesst.gouv.qc.ca/pdf/Rapports_annuels_CSST_et_annexes_s tatistiques/CNESST_Statistiques_annuelles_2020.pdf Colindres, C., Cohen, A., & Caxaj, S. (2021). Migrant agricultural workers’ health, safety and access to protections: A descriptive survey identifying structural gaps and vulnerabilities in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(7), 3696. Craggs, S. (2020, May 11). Haldimand-Norfolk issues COVID-19 ID cards to migrant farm workers. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ham ilton/migrant-workers-1.5564783 ESDC. (2020). Guidance for employers of temporary foreign workers regarding COVID-19. Government of Canada. Last modified April 22, 2020. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/ser vices/foreign-workers/employer-compliance/covid-guidance.html. Accessed 30 Dec 2020. Gatehouse, J. (2020, July 2). How undocumented migrant workers are slipping through Ontario’s COVID-19 net. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/ canada/leamington-migrant-workers-1.5633032

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George, G. (2022, March 24–26). Essential yet unprotected: Community and service provider supports for migrant farmworkers during and prior to COVID19. Presented at the 24th Metropolis Canada Conference, Reopening Canada: Looking to the Future of Immigration, Settlement and Integration. Government of Ontario. (2020). COVID-19: Temporary pandemic pay. Government of Ontario. https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-temporary-pan demic-pay#:~:text=Pandemic%20pay%20on%20hourly%20wages,pay%20dire ctly%20from%20their%20employer Government of Ontario. (2021). Data Request G-2021-00016 (COVID related request), Index #DR21-074. On file with authors. Grochowski, S. (2021, November 17). Migrant workers evacuated from Abbotsford flooding face uncertain future. Vancouver Sun. https://vancouversun. com/news/migrant-workers-evacuated-from-abbotsford-flooding-face-uncert ain-future Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. (2020, November 16). News & events: Update: Outbreak at Schuyler Farms. https://hnhu.org/update-outbreak-at-schuylerfarms-nov-16/ Hennebry, J. L., Caxaj, C. S., McLaughlin, J., & Mayell, S. (2020). Coronavirus: Canada stigmatizes, jeopardizes essential migrant workers. The Conversation, 3. Hennebry, J. L., & Preibisch, K. (2012). A model for managed migration? Reexamining best practices in Canada’s seasonal agricultural worker program. International Migration, 50, e19–e40. Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ). (2021). Aide-mémoire 2021 pour l’arrivée au Québec de travailleurs étrangers temporaires du secteur bioalimentaire. https://www.cisss-bsl.gouv.qc.ca/sites/default/files/fichier/ 2021-04-16_aide-memoire_travailleurs_etrangers_temporaires_fr_2021.pdf IRCC. (2022). Canada—Work permit holders by program, country of citizenship and year in which permit(s) became effective, 2002–2021. Customized Data Request CR-22-0007. On file with authors. Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW). (2020). Bunkhouse conditions for migrant farm workers in Canada [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?time_continue=1&v=z-7bSBhPiXY&feature=emb_title Keung, N. (2020). ‘We don’t have winter clothes or boots’: These migrant farm workers toiled through the pandemic. Now they’re stuck in Canada. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/12/09/we-dont-havewinter-clothes-or-boots-these-migrant-farm-workers-toiled-through-the-pan demic-now-theyre-stuck-in-canada.html Marsden, S., Tucker, E., & Vosko, L. F. (2021). Flawed by design?: A case study of federal enforcement of migrant workers’ labour rights in Canada. Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal, 23(1), 71–102.

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Ministry of Health. (2020). COVID-19 guidance: Workplace and living settings for seasonal international agriculture workers (IAWs). https://health.gov.on. ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/coronavirus/docs/COVID-19_Farm_O utbreak_guidance.pdf Mojtehedzadeh, S. (2020). Migrant workers with COVID-19 must not be allowed to work, health experts say—As infected worker count surpasses 1000. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/business/2020/07/07/hea lth-experts-urge-concerted-government-action-to-tackle-migrant-worker-out breaks.html Orkin, A. M., Lay, M., McLaughlin, J., Schwandt, M., & Cole, D. (2014). Medical repatriation of migrant farm workers in Ontario: A descriptive analysis. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2(3), E192–E198. Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). (2021). Government of Canada announces funding for continued support for the COVID-19 agri-worker isolation and recovery centre in Windsor, Ontario. https://www.canada. ca/en/public-health/news/2021/03/government-of-canada-announces-fun ding-for-continued-support-for-the-covid-19-agri-worker-isolation-and-rec overy-centre-in-windsor-ontario.html Rajkumar, D., Berkowitz, L., Vosko, L. F., Preston, V., & Latham, R. (2012). At the temporary permanent divide: How Canada produces temporariness and makes citizens through its security, work, and settlement policies. Citizenship Studies, 16(3–4), 483–510. Roberts, S. E. (2020). The bureaucratic and political work of immigration classifications: An analysis of the temporary foreign workers program and access to settlement services in Canada. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 21(3), 973–992. Schuyler Farms Limited v. Dr. Nesathurai. (2020). ONSC 4711. Schuyler Farms Limited v. Nesathurai. (2020). ON HSARB 4181. https://www. canlii.org/en/on/onscdc/doc/2020/2020onsc4711/2020onsc4711.html? searchUrlHash=AAAAAQAjU2NodXlsZXIgRmFybXMgTGltaXRlZCB2IE5lc 2F0aHVyYWkAAAAAAQ&resultIndex=1 Vosko, L. F. (2012). Rights without remedies: Enforcing employment standards in Ontario by maximizing voice among workers in precarious jobs. Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 50, 845. Vosko, L. F., & Spring, C. (2021). COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada and the crisis of migrant farmworkers’ social reproduction: Transnational labour and the need for greater accountability among receiving states. Journal of International Migration and Integration. Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU). (2020). Class order made pursuant to section 22(5.0.1) of the health protection and promotion act, R.S.O.

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1990, c.H.7 . https://www.wechu.org/sites/default/files/edit-resource/ems ection-22-class-action-order-farms/class-action-order-farms-apr-2021.pdf. Accessed 30 Mar 2022. Workplace Safety and Insurance Board [WSIB]. (2021). Covid related claims— Employers. Request ID 5617. Freedom of information request. On-file with authors. Workplace Safety and Insurance Board [WSIB]. (2022). Welcome to the COVID19 worker income protection benefit program. WSIB Ontario. https://ontariocovid19-worker-income-protection-benefit.ca/en Xu, X. (2021, December 18). Flooded out of their worksites in B.C., migrant workers face return to home countries. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/art icle-temporary-foreign-workers-in-bc-flooded-out-of-their-worksites-face/

CHAPTER 5

Mitigating Transnational Employment Strain Among Migrant Farmworkers: Principles and Practical Strategies Abstract Attending to the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic deepened structural vulnerabilities previously and routinely experienced by migrant farm workers, this chapter emphasizes how working and living conditions described in Chapter 4 flowed from those established prior to the pandemic. In revealing the excessive levels of employment strain among this essential transnational workforce, this chapter argues that revelations of the pandemic open space for mounting immigration reforms that automatically grant permanent residency status to migrant farmworkers who desire it combined with other structural changes that would improve working conditions for agricultural workers. As such changes in policy require long-term advocacy, consultations, and planning, in the interim this chapter reports on other recommendations articulated by the migrant farmworkers participating in our study. Emanating from the voices of workers themselves, such proposals include: protecting workers from arbitrary dismissal, permanent residency status for injured workers, the implementation of regular unannounced labour inspections on farms with mechanisms to secure worker voice without fear of reprisal, the creation of national housing standards, improvements in wages and thoroughgoing access to income support in periods of unemployment, and opportunities for full access to a wide range of jobs and public services facilitating transitions. Keywords Employment strain · Transnational · Migrant farmworkers · Precarious employment · Advocacy © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 L. F. Vosko et al., Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic, Politics of Citizenship and Migration, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17704-0_5

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Adopting an expansive understanding of transnational employment strain to investigate the nature, contours, and effects of immigration and employment laws and policies before and during the global COVID19 pandemic, together with worker interviews as well as media analysis, reveal that the significant imbalance between employment demands and employment resources long experienced by migrant farmworkers holding tenuous residency status and precarious jobs in Canada intensified at its height. In the case of migrant farmworkers, as the foregoing chapters have shown, jobs and, indeed, individual workplaces, can neither be separated from relationships surrounding their paid employment (i.e., work permits tied to specific employers) nor the social conditions of life outside the workplace (congregate living, limited mobility, etc.), terms of an employment contract (“seasonal” temporary employment), and the institutional context defining these transnational workers as non-citizens. We therefore moved away from the narrow conception of “job strain” towards an expanded conception of employment strain, attentive to employment relationships (Lewchuk et al., 2006; Vosko, 2006). This expanded conception exposes how strains of employment (understood as a balance between employment demands and available resources) are shaped by a multitude of inter-connected conditions, including not only employment demands but also understandings of household insecurity and relationships maintained across the transnational space. In addition, we enlarged the employment strain approach by highlighting relationships that span across transnational space. For migrant farmworkers who come to Canada on temporary work permits and are required to leave their families and communities behind, employment demands and resources do not take shape exclusively at the national level. Forced separation from family and community is a source of emotional strain—a manifestation of “emotional imperialism” (see for e.g., Hochschild, 2002)—for these workers. At the same time, the ability to support their households economically across transnational space is a source of pride for many migrant workers and thus an important employment resource. This imperative nevertheless conditions the ways in which migrant farmworkers respond to employment demands, compelling them

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to accept dangerous, degrading, and difficult conditions that may undermine their physical and psychological well-being in order to stay in this employer-controlled labour migration program. At the same time, placed in housing they are required to share with their co-workers rather than their families, migrant farmworkers must contend with yet another source of employment strain that may undermine their health. Analysed through the lens of transnational employment strain, workers’ experiences chronicled herein reveal that prior to the pandemic, employment demands in agriculture, including occupational hazards, such as high risk of injury, extended hours of work, intense work pressure or speed-up, workplace harassment, and substandard employer-provided housing, were exacerbated by the seasonality and lack of permanency characteristic of farm work.1 Underlining the need for a conceptual shift from job to employment strain—attentive to workers’ social location and potentially transnational lives and relationships—they also demonstrate that, even then, supplementary and/or modified existing government and community resources failed to counter high levels of employment strain linked to the nexus between their tenuous residency status and the precarious character of their jobs in Canadian agriculture. For instance, employment resources derived from the social benefits to which migrant farmworkers are formally entitled (such as public health insurance, temporary income replacement/benefits in case of injury or illness, and COVID-19 interventions), and workers’ access to them continued to largely be controlled by employers (who govern workers’ ability to leave the worksite, encompassing their on-farm congregate housing) despite terms and conditions established under TFWPs, thus rendering these potential resources ineffective. At the same time, supports, such as those provided by non-profit and civil society organizations and/or public agencies, which could, in theory, buffer employment demands (e.g., through the provision of health care and language services), were either non-existent, inaccessible to, or insufficient for migrant farmworkers. 1 Notably, similar findings have been reported in other Canadian provinces; for example, in British Columbia (see, Encalada Grez, 2022) and Prince Edward Island (see Bejan et al., 2021).

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Likewise, many COVID-19-specific interventions and supports aiming to protect migrant farmworkers during the pandemic, such as mandatory quarantine periods, guidelines on congregate employer-provided housing, on-the-job health provisions, testing and vaccine clinics, and income supports, were often either ignored, limited in their implementation, illenforced and/or had contradictory effects. Pointing to the need for more meaningful interventions that address transnational employment strain, such outcomes are tied to the limits of existing employment resources in addressing deeply rooted factors contributing to migrant farmworkers’ vulnerability, including their dependency upon employers and their precarious legal status, both institutionalized via immigration policy, and the insecure character of their employment in agriculture, reinforced by laws and policies governing employment standards and collective bargaining (explored in Chapter 2). As Chapter 4 illustrated, during the pandemic, Canadian policymakers recognized migrant farmworkers as “essential” to maintaining the national food supply and Canadian agriculture more broadly. Accordingly, they were exempt from largescale international travel restrictions. Akin to other essential workers, they were also compelled to shoulder new and intensified employment demands. Yet this group’s physical, emotional, social, and economic wellbeing was further compromised on account of their differential inclusion. That is, although migrant farmworkers were granted entry to Canada when other non-citizens were restricted from crossing the border, they remained excluded, or partially excluded from certain social protections and supports linked to their residency status, such as access to the full suite of social insurance provisions under Employment Insurance, COVID-19 specific emergency income supports, and subsidized English and French language programs, intensifying their employment strains on account of their residency status and transnational lives. Many workplaces in which migrant farmworkers laboured were not adequately protected during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the provision of personal protective equipment and masks was uneven as was facilitation and the enforcement of physical distancing requirements. Moreover, onsite labour and housing inspections were largely absent at its height and, where they took place, inspections reflected a compliance model of enforcement (Tucker & Vosko, 2021). Instead of creating safer working and living environments, many employers required their employees to remain isolated during their rest periods and days off. This rigid confinement to living quarters had a detrimental impact on

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workers, preventing or severely limiting their time for rest and rehabilitation away from the worksite (i.e., off-farm). In these ways, working and living conditions they experienced during the pandemic heightened problems predating the pandemic, such as high levels of occupational health and safety standards violations, cramped housing, an inadequate inspection regime, employer control over migrant workers’ personal lives and time-off, and “social quarantining” (Horgan & Liinamaa, 2017). Furthermore, in the absence of guaranteed access to sufficient income replacement and veritable fears of medical repatriation, prevalent challenges before the pandemic, at times, workers “elected” to avoid rapid or PCR testing for COVID-19, to the potential peril of their own health as well as that of their co-workers. Simultaneously, as regional economic gaps widened due to insufficient vaccine availability in lower income countries, global inequalities shaping labour migration in agriculture grew as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded (ILO, 2021). The elevated risks posed to migrant farmworkers during the pandemic—separate and apart from their high rates of infection—reflect such entrenched inequalities institutionalized via immigration and labour laws and policies sustaining their insecurity of presence. It therefore follows that, to address the employment strain confronting these transnational temporary and fixed-term contract workers, Canadian immigration and labour laws and policies must be reformed to ensure migrant farmworkers’ security of presence (i.e., the ability to live and work without fear of deportation). Given the transnational character of the employment strain migrant workers with precarious residency status face, it is imperative that reforms both pursue “methodological de-nationalism” (Anderson, 2019), insofar as workers, regardless of national citizenship status, have greater freedom of movement and access to a full suite of health, social, and labour protections wherever they live and labour, and create conditions for security of presence. Thus, by way of conclusion, we enumerate several necessary directions, informed foremost by workers’ experiences and changes they envision and view to be transformative, that aim to foster sustainable working and living conditions, grounded in the principles of global labour market membership (i.e., the extension of rights and protections accorded to workers migrating across national borders and falling in between different regulatory regimes) (Vosko, 2010). Realized in practice, global labour market membership would mean providing employment resources that not only buffer transnational employment strain but challenge the legitimacy of policies and practices justified narrowly

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on the principle of national sovereignty that fosters “migrant worker powerlessness” (Burawoy, 1976, 1078). A first step towards a longterm solution mitigating migrant farmworkers’ transnational employment strain is nevertheless far-reaching national immigration policy reforms granting permanent residency to all migrant farmworkers who seek it combined with major improvements in the protection regime for all agricultural workers.

Status Upon Arrival and an Overhaul of the Regulation and Valuation of Work in Agriculture Permanent status upon arrival for workers and members of their families, a key demand put forward by migrant worker advocacy organizations in Canada (e.g., Migrant Rights Network, 2022; MWAC, 2021; Ramsaroop, 2019), would help alleviate the pressure on migrant farmworkers whose closed work permits with a single employer exclude them from a number of social and economic resources and supports and security of presence. Migrant rights advocates emphasize that permanent residency should be granted universally to all migrant farmworkers upon arrival, and not as a pathway for a few selected workers who can prove their worthiness to employers (Ramsaroop, 2019). They therefore oppose a stepwise transition to permanent residency on the basis that “any carrot and stick approach that ties migrant workers to a single employer while they await permanent residency would simply reinforce migrant exploitation” (Ramsaroop, 2019, 391). While residency upon arrival is preferable, under some circumstances, such as in the case of farmworkers who have launched complaints against their employers, well-designed pathways to permanent residency would also serve as a means of thwarting employer retaliation and subsequent repatriation. Furthermore, avenues for regularizing workers who lack status are likewise imperative for the sake of their health and well-being, as well as that of those workers holding different residency statuses with whom they work (Borras et al., 2021; Goldring & Landolt, 2022). If all migrant farmworkers were granted permanent residency, those who are injured would not be repatriated to their countries before they fully recover or denied opportunity to return to work in Canada. Manuel, a Guatemalan migrant employed on a farm in Quebec, spoke about how

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permanent status would be beneficial to him, particularly in the context of workplace injuries. He told the story of a serious accident on his farm that left him with multiple debilitating fractures. Seven months after the accident he was still at the hospital, in pain and unable to return to work, underscoring the risks workers take and their effects in the absence of access to permanent residency. Manuel narrated: Well, everything happened so fast. I remember someone shouting and when I turned around to see what was happening, a whole pile of boxes hit me and I lost consciousness, Then I remember that someone covered me with a blanket because I felt cold. Then someone talked to me and turned me around. I vomited blood and then I started to breathe. When I started to breathe, I did feel relief. But when I heard the sound of the ambulances, I knew I was safe. And that was when I closed my eyes and from there, I woke up fifteen days later. When I came to, I saw there were four doctors in front of me, I had a tube in my throat, I had needles in my right hand and my left hand. I had a round thing near my chest that had four outlets. I don’t know what it was for, but I only saw that it had four types of liquids. And I had a bunch of things stuck all over my body.

Manuel was permanently disabled and shared that he would not be able to survive if he returned to Guatemala. He noted, “In my country, I will not be cured; I will not receive anything, I will just die… no one will employ me.” He hoped to be able to stay in Canada as a permanent resident but, at the time of the interview, there was no indication that his hopes would be realized. As permanent residents, migrant farmworkers would be free to circulate in the labour market. Without fear of deportation, they would be more likely to speak up for their rights and refuse unsafe or abusive working conditions. They would also have the right to share their lives in Canada with their kin. Admitting migrant farmworkers as permanent residents, rather than temporary workers tied to a single employer, would require an overhaul of Canada’s immigration system that differentiates high-skilled applicants seen as ideal future immigrants from those deemed to be low-skilled and permanently temporary (Hennebry, 2012), such as agricultural workers. The pandemic made it abundantly evident that many economic sectors in Canada are reliant on (im)migrants with so-called “lower skills,” and by privileging higher skilled immigration,

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Canada leaves unprotected the workers who are essential to the country’s economic viability yet who do not have the qualifications to pass the threshold of eligibility. Still, while the security of presence in the country is necessary, it is not sufficient. In Canada (and elsewhere in the world), agricultural workers hold one of the least protected, most hazardous, and poorly remunerated jobs, and in fact, these employment conditions constitute major reasons why national workers shun these jobs. Even as permanent residents, farmworkers would still experience a considerable employment strain, unless the food system were also redesigned. As food justice activists point out, to provide fairness to agricultural workers, the corporately owned industrial food system that treats food as a marketable commodity, rather than a human right, needs to be challenged (Weiler & McLaughlin, 2019). Vonk and Holmes (2019, 394) recognize that granting permanent legal status to temporary migrant farmworkers (which is, essentially, what Binford implies when he calls for the abolition of SAWP, see Binford, 2019a, 2019b) would not transform “the broader systems producing and reproducing this exploited, racialized, illegalized, classed status.” In outlining the position of the Justice for Migrant Workers, a grassroots organization that calls for permanent residency upon arrival, Ramsaroop (2019, 392) simultaneously acknowledges the urgent need to remove “numerous exclusions, exemptions, and lack of enforcement that all farmworkers endure in the area of employment standards, occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation.” Unless working conditions in agriculture are improved significantly, resident farmworkers are likely to seek jobs in economic sectors that provide higher pay, year-round employment, and stronger workplace protections, as did undocumented migrant farmworkers in the US who were granted status through the 1986 US Immigration Reform and Control Act (Binford, 2019b; Martin, 2017). As Binford (2019b) suspects, and we concur, if migrant farmworkers were granted permanent residency in Canada but the agricultural industry’s labour conditions remained unchanged, labour shortages in agricultural production would soon reappear, triggering a new cycle of temporary migration, potentially through a renewed TFWP, and/or an increase in the employment of unauthorized migrants. To avoid reproducing these precarious working conditions, a major overhaul of the protection regime for all agricultural workers is essential. Such an overhaul offers the potential to alleviate conditions fostering deep economic insecurities among workers in this

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sector and the profound insecurity of presence coming in their trail for migrant farmworkers. Furthermore, from workers’ perspective, without improvements to employment conditions in agriculture it would not be feasible for transnational migrants to settle in Canada permanently. If wages are to remain low in agriculture, workers with permanent residency, while technically entitled to sponsor their family members to join them in Canada, might not have economic means to socially reproduce their families within the Canadian context. As various researchers, including one of the co-authors of this book,2 find in their previous research, migrant farmworkers are often ambivalent about permanent residency.3 They often report that they can provide better care for their families and support their communities when they engage in temporary migration. Further, it is important for many migrant workers to return to their home communities at the end of the season, and of course, they could do it as permanent residents of Canada, albeit at their own expense. By contrast, while on temporary contracts as temporary work permit holders, migrant farmworkers’ travel expenses, not to mention, the costs of accommodation while in Canada, are covered, at least partially, by employers. It is noteworthy that when we asked migrant farmworkers participating in the current study about the changes that would be needed to improve their working and living conditions, very few mentioned permanent residency status. It is possible that permanent residency is merely outside the realm of imaginable or attainable for many workers and, accordingly, they identified some changes that they thought to be more feasible. We describe their proposals—that is, those that they voiced as participants—alongside some additional improvements that we, as researchers, consider necessary to bring about a reduction in transnational employment strain while continuing to call for more structural changes in the immigration policy, the food system, and an equitable distribution of global resources. These proposals echo calls for change

2 In their 2010 and 2011 research on migrant farmworkers in southwestern Ontario, Basok, Bélanger and Rivas asked the workers participating in their study if they had interest in remaining in Canada as permanent residents and received the foregoing response. Note, however, that the publication resulting from this research (Basok et al., 2014) does not delve into responses to this question. 3 We are grateful to one of the anonymous reviewers of this manuscript for drawing our attention to this issue.

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outlined by a group of Jamaican farmworkers in a letter sent to the Jamaican Labour Minister Karl Samuda on August 11, 2022; accusing employers of upholding deplorable working and living conditions on Canadian farms, Jamaican farmworkers called for the implementation of national housing standards, protection from blacklisting and employer reprisals, meaningful opportunities to transfer farms, a seat at the table during bilateral contract negotiations, among other promising proposals (Jamaica Observer, 2022).

Protection from Employer Reprisals Prompting Repatriation: An Independent Tribunal and Open Work Permits Many of the migrant farmworkers we interviewed told us they ignored unsafe employment practices and harassment and opted not to complain when facing substandard and overcrowded housing conditions for fear of job loss and immediate repatriation and/or the denial of future employment. One employment resource that could potentially protect the workers in danger of losing their contracts as a result of being outspoken is an independent tribunal (Basok et al., 2022; Vosko, 2019) that would adjudicate cases of potentially unjust dismissal of migrant farmworkers. Such a tribunal would only authorize a dismissal where the employer can establish just cause on a balance of probabilities. Alternatively, an open work permit would potentially obviate the need for such a tribunal, perhaps incrementally by limiting its caseload as such permits are introduced, while empowering the workers to speak out without fear. Migrant farmworkers value the right to voice their opinions and voice their concerns. As Matías, a Mexican migrant farmworker working in a Leamington greenhouse articulated this desire: Sometimes, people have the need to tell the boss about their needs or something else they want to tell their boss, something that they don’t like. You need to have the right to express your views (el derecho a opinar).

Other migrant farmworkers told us that they would be less fearful of expressing their concerns to employers if certain protections were put in place, including open work permits for agricultural work as well as the ability to seek and receive transfers to other employers, which such a permit would facilitate.

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Furthermore, recruited under “lower skilled workers” programs, migrant farmworkers are prevented from applying for jobs deemed “higher skilled” in agriculture and other sectors on account of their permit conditions. Yet many SAWP and AS participants have skills and qualifications required to perform different jobs (or seek opportunities to obtain such skills). Ron, for example, sought opportunities to work in and be trained for higher level positions at the farm where he had been employed for a few years in a lower level position: I think that if from the beginning the company should have trained us for different job positions, it would have worked better for them. Give me a higher position and give me more respect. But they don’t respect all the sacrifice that one makes, and it’s not fine with us. In my case, I don’t like it that people come to occupy certain positions that I sweated for.

René also seeks opportunities to move to non-agricultural jobs: There are other good jobs in Canada that require workers. And if they gave us an opportunity to work for better wages, it would be ideal. It would help. Open work permits for migrant farmworkers would allow for such transitions into better paid and more secure employment.

A National Housing Standard Many migrant farmworkers discussed how their poor and crowded housing conditions undermined their health both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. While poorly ventilated crowded bunkhouses increase the risks of virus transmission, migrant farmworkers also spoke of the physical and mental health consequences of cramped and dilapidated sleeping quarters, kitchen areas, and bathrooms. Decency in housing could improve workers’ lives, health, and well-being outside of work. At the same time, as one migrant farmworker reported, it represents a vital employment resource to those engaged in dangerous jobs. Consequently, Alberto believed that migrant farmworkers would be less likely to be injured at work if they enjoyed more privacy (and, hence, rest) in their houses as their overall stress would be reduced: We need more privacy because in each house there are always problems between the workers, always, always, there are problems. … And I say it because this would be better for the employers also. When accidents happen at work it’s

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because someone has a problem and keeps thinking about them and not paying attention. It always starts there, because of the problems that happen in the house.

As Chapter 4 showed, while the federal government did conduct some housing inspections during the pandemic, Canada’s Auditor General (2021) found these inspections to be too few in number, insufficiently comprehensive, and largely ineffective. The shortcomings of these employment resources are linked, we argue, to the lack of comprehensive and national standards for employer-provided housing, which allows for inspectors to potentially prioritize employers’ interests over workers’ when conducting inspections. Providing for sufficient on- and off-farm housing in Canada requires a permanent well-enforced national housing standard that acknowledges living accommodations’ centrality in employment strain and is attentive to transnational lives and relationships. Canada’s federal government should thus develop housing standards that, at a minimum, meet criteria adopted by the UN including security of tenure; availability of services, materials, facilities, and infrastructure (including safe drinking water, energy and space for food storage and preparation, etc.); affordability; habitability (i.e. protected against cold, damp, heat, wind, other threats to health, etc., with provision for privacy); accessibility; location (i.e. proximate to healthcare services, groceries, and other facilities); and cultural adequacy (OHCHR, 2014, 3–4; for detailed recommendations, see specifically UFCW, 2020; MWHEWG, 2020). These standards must be upheld regardless of the seemingly temporary character of housing for transnational workers, whose experience of employment strain is acutely impacted by the conditions of housing provided in Canada, housing conditions that they may encounter season after season, year after year.

Meaningful Access to Income Support and Wide-Ranging Services Workers participating in this study also supported proposals we offer elsewhere with regard to income support (Vosko & Spring, 2021), specifically, the need for universality in social insurance schemes in the receiving state. All workers, regardless of their duration in Canada and citizenship status, should be entitled and enabled to access all EI regular benefits

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as well as other income-related supports (Tucker et al., 2020). Facilitating such access would acknowledge transnational employment strain by reducing pressure on households of workers labouring transnationally in the Global South to bear the burden of labour renewal during and beyond the life of employment contracts. It would translate into the provision of supports in periods of illness, injury, unemployment, and other justifiable employment interruptions, mitigating pressures to suppress concerns about personal health and collective safety on the job reported by migrant farmworkers. An OECD (2020, 22) study addressing consequences of COVID-19 on immigrants and migrants globally calls on policymakers to ensure that “economic and employment support measures do reach migrants” to ensure that “the contributions of migrants are not forgotten.” Towards this end, requirements, such as non-expired work permits, which may deem workers holding employer-tied time-limited permits ineligible for many income supports to which they should otherwise be entitled, must be challenged. As the global health pandemic has shown, the transnational nature of migrant farmworkers’ labour is integral to sustaining Canada’s food supply and Canadian agriculture in the long term. Given their indispensability, it would be only fair that migrant farmworkers be enabled to collect income support during and between fixed (often circular) employment contracts (typically of 8 months duration annually) regardless of their geographic location, especially during periods of seasonal unemployment prescribed under bilateral agreements. Access to EI would also offer large-scale access to training for higher quality jobs, imperative for migrant farmworkers’ seeking to secure better jobs in Canada. Such workers would also benefit from access to French and English language training, if they lacked proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages. Language barriers not only limit migrant workers’ seeking to secure better jobs but also contribute to poor communication between workers and their employers. As Ricky explained: What we need is better communication between the employer and the workers. The language barrier is a big problem for us, and we need to learn English to express ourselves better. … It’s important for us to talk to our employers and tell them about the things that concern us and share ideas that we have to build a healthy work environment.

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In making these remarks, Ricky sought to augment access to services deemed “settlement services,” ranging from health care and legal aid services to language training, presently only accessible to applicants for permanent residency or permanent residents. Arguably, such services are necessary for every migrant worker regardless of entry category, occupation, or industry of employment.

Access to Public Health Insurance The significant health risks migrant farmworkers face underscores the need for access to public health insurance immediately upon arrival as well as after the completion of fixed-term employment contracts. Certain provinces only deem migrant farmworkers eligible for public health care after three months—a de facto waiting period required to demonstrate their local residency during which time they are compelled to rely upon often limited private insurance that is notoriously difficult to access. As essential workers with employment demands with the potential to compromise workers’ health, migrant farmworkers must be exempt from this probationary period. Other impediments to prompt access to public health care, such as Ontario’s requirement that an employer confirms six months of promised full-time employment, should likewise be lifted. And, continuous access to public health insurance in-between jobs, and in instances of injury, should be extended to migrant farmworkers, especially given the essential yet risky character of their jobs. To attend to workplace-related injuries and access primary care, migrant farmworkers, moreover, require sustainable services and supports such as those providing for language translation, travel, and transportation, as well as medical clinics attentive to their needs, offering privacy and confidentiality, as well as flexible scheduling of appointments. They should also be afforded independent transportation to clinics or hospitals free of charge. Troublingly, some workers we interviewed reported their employers’ refusal to bring them to health clinics, effectively denying them medical attention. At the same time, when employers willingly transport migrant farmworkers to a clinic, in the face of potential unwanted accompaniment, fear of being repatriated for medical reasons (Orkin et al., 2014) prevents some from seeking attention they require.

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Decency in Wages and Collective Bargaining Rights for Agricultural Workers: Increasing Workers’ Power Over the Employment Relationship Many migrant farmworkers spoke about the need for improvements in their remuneration, including a much-required increase in minimum pay requirements (by commodity) for their essential jobs, together with providing greater opportunities to work in other higher paying jobs in other sectors and occupations. In calling for improvements in their remuneration and opportunities to work outside agriculture, René noted: The government says we are essential for our jobs, for Canada’s economy. Well, then, they need to improve our salaries. There are jobs in Canada that are not as demanding and pay better.

One route to raise wages and bring about other improvements, as recommended, for instance, by the Migrant Worker Health-Expert Working Group as well as many grassroots organizations, is to ensure worker participation, on an equal footing with employers, in the annual negotiation SAWP contracts between Canada and participating sending states. That said, given the significant growth of the AS, which is not regulated on the basis of bilaterally negotiated agreements, across the board increases in minimum pay requirements by commodity in the domain of agriculture while opening other job opportunities for migrant workers would ensure that workers participating in this stream are not left behind. Yet it is also imperative to reform labour laws to fully protect agricultural workers’ right to freedom of association and access to meaningful collective bargaining, specifically in jurisdictional contexts, such as Alberta and Ontario, in which agricultural workers as a whole are excluded from laws protecting their rights to form unions and engage in collective bargaining. Moreover, to address fissuring within unionized agricultural workplaces on the basis of residency status and/or TFWP subprogram,4 relevant memoranda of understanding, standard employment agreements, operational guidelines, and template employment agreements must require adherence to labour relations laws and policies by all parties 4 On the threat of attrition, as a modality of deportability among a SAWP-only bargaining unit through the recruitment of AS participants, see Vosko (2019).

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(sending and receiving state officials, employers, and unions), while IRCC and ESDC, Canada’s federal immigration and labour departments responsible for overseeing migrant work programs together should establish and enforce strict penalties for non-adherence. These changes could help address profound consequences of differential inclusion, such as the erosion of social solidarity among workers, including those holding different residency statuses and those holding similar statuses placed in competition for future employment (see especially, Basok et al., 2014), a key employment resource gaining greater value during the pandemic.

Regular and Unannounced Workplace and Housing Inspections Many problems with the administration of the TFWP are magnified by jurisdictional complexities, especially the Canadian federal government’s responsibility for immigration laws and policies, and thus the administration of the SAWP and the AS, on the one hand, and provincial governments’ responsibility for the administration and enforcement of workplace laws, on the other hand. Gaps produced by this federal/provincial separation of oversight of immigration and workplace laws and policies are, moreover, exacerbated by the prevalence of a compliance orientation to enforcement in both domains. Such gaps impede the provision of basic employment standards and worker rights more generally. It is thereby necessary to strengthen federal and provincial enforcement of workplace and immigration laws in concert. The federal government, via its inspection regime enforced by labour and administration authorities (ESDC and IRCC), must take prime responsibility for enforcing regulations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and (where applicable) the SAWP contract bypursuing proactive unannounced in-person housing and workplace inspections. In conducting such inspections, these authorities must facilitate confidential and anonymous employee participation. In the process, they must also construct a firewall between workplace and housing inspectors, on the one hand, and the Canadian Border Services Agency, on the other hand, to ensure that workers’ health and safety are not jeopardized, that workers can sustain a standard of living at work and if they require recuperation from illness or injury, and that they are able to speak candidly about their workplace and housing conditions without fear of reprisal. Such authorities must also have power to compel their provincial/territorial counterparts to enforce workplace laws where there

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is evidence of their breach. Furthermore, labour and housing inspections must engage workers in the absence of employers and/or management and maintain worker anonymity. Referring to the need for both regular proactive on-farm inspections and the importance of protecting workers’ anonymity, Vivana noted: What they need now is for someone to inspect each farm. [They need] to see that the necessary regulations are complied with and that they do not only look at it, but that they ask the workers how they feel. Because many times they just have a survey that has to be filled out or something like that. But they need to come without the boss knowing that they are there. Well, I believe that no one will know if a person is well without asking, because many working people, whether they are foreigners or from here, do not speak out of fear, they do not say things out of fear that if they were to say something they would be fired or not asked to come back. But, if the complaints are made anonymously or done more directly [to inspectors], that’s what would help a lot.

As Viviana underlined, in the immediate term, migrant farmworkers require meaningful interventions, resources, and supports that counter their deportability, support their transnational relationships and lives, and transcend, or at a minimum compensate for, the seasonal and temporary nature of their employment contracts to alleviate their employment strain.

Beyond Canada: Understanding the Transnational Employment Strain Globally Globally, agricultural production has grown reliant on migrant labour composed of undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, and resident immigrants, in addition to authorized guest workers. The transnational employment stain model, advanced in this book, is applicable to many contexts where migrant workers, separated from their families across transnational space, are placed in jobs that are unsafe, physically demanding, and insecure, with few protections and little oversight from the relevant authorities. It is particularly relevant to the analysis of migrant workers in those countries, such as the US, New Zealand, Australia, and Spain, where migration is managed through similar temporary foreign worker or guestworker programs. The US guestworker program for agricultural workers, known today as the H-2A visa program, replaced two pre-existing initiatives, the Bracero

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program, in place between 1942 and 1964, and the 1943 British West Indies Temporary Alien Labor Program (BMI). The 22-year Bracero program, established through a bilateral agreement between the governments of the US and Mexico, authorized over five million Mexican men to work in the US agriculture (Griffith, 2022; Martin, 2020), while BMIW was based on bilateral agreements with the Bahamas, Barbados, British Honduras, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent. Both programs were initially authorized under the US Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Farm Labor Supply Program to address expected labour shortages in agriculture following the US entry into World War II (Griffith, 2022). After the Bracero program was discontinued in 1964, it was replaced by a similar, albeit smaller, program that came to be known as the H2A visa program. Under the H-2A program, agricultural workers, similar to participants in Canada’s TFWP participants, are granted visas to work for specific employers. The H-2A program is administered without bilateral agreements between migrant sending countries and the US (Griffith, 2019, 2022), making it more akin to Canada’s AS than its SAWP. Originally used mostly by East Coast apple growers and by Florida sugar cane growers to recruit mostly workers migrating from the Caribbean, the program has gradually expanded to other crops and US states and now involves workers from a greater range of origin countries (Griffith, 2007, 2022). Over the years, the number of migrant farmworkers admitted on the H-2A program has grown significantly. Whereas in 2010, there were only 79,000 H-2A workers brought to the US, by 2019, the number had risen to 258,000. In the case of New Zealand and Australia, schemes for the recruitment of seasonal agricultural workers are largely modelled on Canada’s SAWP. New Zealand introduced the Recognized Seasonal Employment scheme in 2007, and Australia followed in its neighbour’s footsteps by launching its Seasonal Workers Program in 2009 to recruit labour originating from Pacific Islands (Petrou & Connell, 2018). In both countries, temporary migrants on a working holiday visa are also available to meet the labour demand in agriculture, and in fact, Working Holiday Makers by far outnumber SWP workers in Australian agriculture (Underhill & Rimmer, 2016; Vosko, forthcoming). In Spain, the recruitment of agricultural workers is also similar, in many ways, to Canada’s SAWP. Since 2002, agricultural producers have been able to recruit migrant farmworkers under the quota system that prioritized countries with which bilateral agreements have been

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signed (Güell & Garcés-Mascareñas, 2020; López-Sala, 2016). Spanish employers have played a crucial role in crafting the profiles of desirable workers, giving preference to those with prior experience in agricultural work (Güell & Garcés-Mascareñas, 2020; Mannon et al., 2012). During the boom period, in the 2000s, employers engaged up to 70,000 workers each year, particularly in such places as Huelva (Andalusia) and Lleida (Catalonia), which rely on the seasonal, intensive industrial production of fruit (Basok & López-Sala, 2016). Since 2009, employers have been able to recruit workers from a growing range of countries of origin through the state program “collective management of hiring/recruitment in countries of origin” (or “Gestión Colectiva de las Contratacions en Origen” or GECCO, see Güell & Garcés-Mascareñas, 2020). Contemporaneously, in addition to GECCO, employers can now recruit workers privately in those Eastern European countries that have recently entered the European Union, particularly the accession countries of Rumania and Bulgaria, drawing on the pools of former GECCO participants and their social networks (Güell & Garcés-Mascareñas, 2020). In each of these countries, agricultural guestworker programs are employer-driven and controlled; temporary workers are placed with specific employers and are expected to return home at the end of their contract; and migrant farmworkers have limited access to social and economic rights and are subject to deportation at employers’ discretion (Griffith, 2022; Güell & Garcés-Mascareñas, 2020; Petrou & Connell, 2018). All migrant workers leave their families behind and provide economic and social support to them from afar while living in camps or shared accommodations. The working and living conditions are similar in many ways to those of Canadian workers: they live in deplorable conditions, receive wages that are lower than for national workers, and frequently experience wage theft; they are exposed to unhealthy working environments and, when injured or sick, they are sent to their home communities without compensation; and opportunities to become permanent residents are extremely limited (Farmworker Justice, 2012; García-Colón, 2020; Güell & Garcés-Mascareñas, 2020; Griffith, 2022; Jeong, 2022). At the same time, established employment standards are poorly enforced as workplace and housing inspections are few and far between, and workers are reluctant to raise their workplace and housing

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concerns for fear of employer retaliation and repatriation (García-Colón, 2020; Güell & Garcés-Mascareñas, 2020). The transnational employment strain approach developed in this book provides an analytical tool for scrutinizing the demands migrant farmworkers face in such different contexts. It also highlights specific ways in which these demands are constituted by policies and interventions, including those that aim at protecting the workers but end up reproducing migrant farmworkers’ exclusions. In parallel to what we expose in our book, studies of other countries likewise suggest that the COVID19 pandemic magnified employment strain among transnational migrant farmworkers, increasing their workplace risks while leaving them largely unprotected even after certain measures were put in place to contain the spread of the virus (García-Colón, 2020; Güell & Garcés-Mascareñas, 2020; Istiko et al., 2022; Neef, 2020). Producing more detailed comparisons of migrant farmworkers’ experiences of transnational employment strain in different countries, as constituted through a suite of policies, practices, and initiatives established to support the vitality of the competitive global industrial food system, is thereby necessary. Alongside comparable findings of studies emerging elsewhere, the findings herein reveal that the realities of transnational employment strain among migrant farmworkers in Canada—workers recognized as essential to sustaining national food supplies and agriculture industries—are devastating. In order to address, and not reproduce or further exacerbate transnational employment strain, receiving states, together with sending state counterparts, must make bold policy interventions that redress such strains at their roots, confronting longstanding global inequities and power imbalances between workers and employers in agriculture institutionalized via immigration and labour law and policy.

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Index

A Access to healthcare (conditions), 105 Access to healthcare (recommendations), 18, 85, 95 Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA), 51, 96 Agricultural stream (AS), 3, 12–14, 16, 28, 29, 31, 32, 35, 51, 52, 56, 59, 70, 71, 96, 121, 125, 126, 128

B Bilateral agreements, 29, 31, 56, 59, 63, 70, 123, 128 Blacklisting, 120 Bracero program, 128 British West Indies Temporary Alien Labor Program, 128

C Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), 6. See also Income replacement support Circular migration, 29 Collective bargaining, 51, 114, 125 recommendations, 125 right to, 125 Consular representatives, 63, 72 role in assisting migrant workers, 63, 72 COVID-19 border closure, 6 contagion, 17, 95 prevention measures, 85 support measures, 123 vaccination, 80

D Deportability, 36, 52, 61, 62, 64, 66, 70, 72, 81, 92, 127 Deportation, 92, 93, 115, 117, 129

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 L. F. Vosko et al., Transnational Employment Strain in a Global Health Pandemic, Politics of Citizenship and Migration, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17704-0

155

156

INDEX

Differential inclusion, 28, 96, 114, 126 Dismissals, 92 fear of, 15, 61, 62, 100, 120 wrongful or unjust, 3, 26, 67, 71, 120

E Emotional imperialism, 112 Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), 29, 52, 85, 86, 96, 101, 126 Employment demand-definition, 17 Employment Insurance (EI), 37, 98, 99, 114 Employment resource-definition, 64 Employment standards, 51, 52, 59, 70, 72, 81, 114, 118, 126, 129 enforcement, 70, 71, 81, 126 Employment strain-defined, 2, 36 Essential, workers, 114, 124

F Farmworker exceptionalism, 51 Freedom of association, 125

I Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), 52, 70, 126 Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), 7, 11, 29, 102, 126 Income replacement programs, 98, 99 Income replacement support, 96, 113 Indigenous migrant workers, 5, 13 Infection, in the workplace, 41

J Job demand model, 26 Job strain, job strain model, 16, 27, 36, 37

L Labour Force Survey (LFS), 5 Labour market impact assessments (LMIAs), 29, 70 Labour protection, 34, 115

M Medical repatriation, 36, 92, 104, 115 Methodological nationalism, 38

G Gaps, in protections, 9, 50 N National Commodities List, 31 H H-2A program, 128 Housing conditions, 16, 17, 52, 59, 86, 120–122, 126 Housing inspections, 114, 122, 127, 129 Housing, recommendations for improvement, 6 Hyper-productivity, 52

O Occupational health hazards, 16, 52, 54 Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers Program, 13, 71 Open work permits, recommendation, 120, 121

INDEX

P Permanent Residency Status for migrant farmworkers, 12, 119 Pilot project for occupations requiring lower levels of formal training, 31 Precarious employment, 2, 17, 36 Precarious legal status, 36, 114 Precariousness, 32, 102 Precarious residency status, 3, 27, 36–38, 41, 42, 52, 53, 73, 80, 115 Precarious status, 16 Protections for migrant farmworkers, recommendations, 81 Public Health Ontario, 5, 8, 9 R Racialized, 5, 36, 37 Recognized Seasonal Employment, 128 Remittances, 14, 17, 34, 39, 53, 67, 72, 97 Replaceability, 52, 63 Reproductive labour, social reproduction, 38 S Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), 3, 12–16, 28–32, 34, 35, 51, 52, 56, 59, 60, 63, 70–72, 81, 95, 96, 98, 118, 121, 125, 126, 128 contract, 12, 29, 56, 59, 81, 96, 125, 126 operational guidelines, 125 Seasonal Workers Program, 128 Service Canada, 29 Spousal/family accompaniment, 31, 32, 38

157

T Temporary agricultural labour Australia, 50, 127, 128 New Zealand, 50, 127, 128 Spain, 127, 128 USA, 128 Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) administration, 81, 126 admission figures, 12 history, 29–35 Temporary labour migration programs, 3, 28 Temporary work permits, 8, 31, 32, 39, 112 Transnational employment strain-defined, 3, 16, 35 Transnational lives, 17, 27, 41, 53, 69, 92, 104, 113, 114, 122 Transnational relationships, 2–4, 64, 127 Transnational social fields, 38 Transnational spaces, 38 Transnational workforce, 18, 41 U Undocumented migrants, 127 Unjust dismissal, 120 W Workers Safety Insurance Board (WSIB), 99 Workplace harassment, 16, 52, 57, 64, 113 Workplace injuries, 117 Workplace inspections, 126 proactive, 127 Workplace pressure, to increase productivity, 2, 16, 52