Growers committed to keeping farm workers safe as part of efforts help get Windsor-Essex to Stage 3

Jul 30, 2020
Guelph ON – Local farmers are stepping up to play their part to help Windsor-Essex get to Stage 3 of re-opening. The region remains the only one in Ontario in Stage 2 following a provincial government announcement today. 
Local fruit and vegetable growers are continuing their focus on keeping farm workers safe by ensuring employees are treated with respect and dignity, are paid fairly, have access to health care and benefits, and importantly, are safely housed. Farms, and employee living and working conditions, continue to be regularly inspected by multiple agencies and government. 
Farmers also remain committed to: 
  • Informing workers about available testing and doing our part to make sure workers’ legal rights for job protection and income protection (e.g. WSIB) are respected if they must be isolated. 
  • Continuing to work with all levels of government to provide COVID-19 health and safety training guidelines for farmers and workers. 
  • Limiting the movement of local temporary contract workers from one farm to another to reduce the risk of community spread. This also means separating local and international guest workers to decrease the risk of infection. 
“We, too, are eager to see Windsor-Essex get to Stage 3 along with the rest of the province,” says Bill George, Chair of the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA). “As farmers, our job is to get food on people’s plates and to keep workers safe while doing so. So, to open up, there are two key testing priorities we need to see the government and local health authorities act on quickly both on- and off-farm.” 
To help expedite Stage 3 re-opening in Windsor-Essex, the sector is calling on government and local health authorities to action two specific testing priorities: 
  • Facilitate the availability of local and province-wide proactive testing of all agri-food employees through expanded and consistent deployment of on-farm testing resources. 
  • Promote and strengthen community-based testing in the surrounding area of Windsor-Essex to minimize risk of community spread to farm workers. 
“International farm workers must complete a mandatory two-week quarantine upon arrival before they can start working on Ontario farms. From local outbreaks earlier in the summer, we’ve learned most were associated with community spread of COVID-19 to farm workers – and not the other way 
around. Stopping the spread of this virus requires limiting the prevalence in surrounding communities,” says George. “To get the economy going again, we need the collective efforts of growers, governments and local health authorities to help farmers keep workers safe and maintain our food supply.” 
Ontario’s farmers are committed to continuing to work with government and health officials to protect the health and safety of our essential agricultural employees so that they can continue to ensure that locally grown fruits and vegetables are available year-round. 
Source : OFVGA
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