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BC Agriculture Council to launch complaints hotline for farm workers

The B.C. Agriculture Council (BCAC) is in the process of setting up a complaints hotline for seasonal agricultural workers who travel from countries like Mexico and Jamaica to work on farms in the province.

The hotline is part of a larger initiative to improve B.C.'s seasonal agricultural workers program and be proactive about addressing complaints, according to BCAC communications person Cheryl Davie.

In September of this year, The Tyee reported on poor living conditions faced by Guatamalan workers on an Okanagan orchard. A month later, the CBC ran a story on Mexican workers in Abbotsford who said they were treated like hostages by their employer.

The BCAC established a seasonal agricultural worker compliance committee this fall that includes representatives from its own labour committee as well as from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Service Canada, and the consulates of Mexico and Jamaica, according to Davie, who added the committee held its first meeting Oct. 19.

Davie said the committee will not take on operational or administrative aspects of the program, and farms are not required to participate. Davie added that her office does currently take complaints, but will soon have a specific 1-800 number that can cater to seasonal workers in their own languages.

The BCAC received a $40,932 grant from the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. to set up the hotline.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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