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Media opportunity: Temporary Foreign Workers in P.E.I. cite inadequate housing, overcrowding during the COVID‑19 pandemic: Dalhousie research study
Over the last year, thousands of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) have travelled from their homes in Mexico, the Philippines, the Caribbean and Central America to take on jobs that are integral to Canada’s national food supply, but which can come with distinct risks particularly during a pandemic.
Hundreds of these workers arrived in Prince Edward Island after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in 2020 to fill positions in the agricultural and seafood processing sectors, forming what business owners and government agencies have identified as an essential part of the workforce.
But little is known about how well protected these workers were from the virus and whether adequate safeguards were put in place to shield them from the communicable disease, which spread through construction sites in Singapore as well as meat packing plants in the U.S. and Canada.
Researchers at Dalhousie University, St. Thomas University in New Brunswick and Cooper Institute in Prince Edward Island addressed some of those questions in a report published today that documents workers’ claims of extreme overcrowding, workplace safety violations, long workdays with no overtime pay, lack of paid sick days, separation from community and reluctance to complain for fear of being fired. While some of these conditions existed pre-COVID-19, they became more acute during the pandemic.
Raluca Bejan, an assistant professor of Social Work at Dalhousie, is leading the team that is asking migrant workers about their experiences in the agri-food sector in the Maritimes, and how the pandemic has affected them. This is the first report in a series of research projects by the Migrant Workers in the Canadian Maritimes partnership.
Dr. Bejan is available to discuss the findings and recommendations for what governments could do to protect this vulnerable population. That includes granting them permanent residency on arrival in Canada, requiring union representation, ending employer-specific work permits, providing provincial health cards on arrival, conducting workplace inspections and ensuring that migrant workers have access to safe, affordable and dignified housing.
Senior Research Reporter
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