June 17th, 2020

Natyshak: Ford must use the tools available to solve the migrant worker crisis in Windsor-Essex

ESSEX – NDP MPP Taras Natyshak says the buck stops with Doug Ford and the provincial government to take control of the outbreaks on farms that’s already led to the avoidable deaths of migrant workers. “Doug Ford has the tools available to deal with these outbreaks, but still refuses to act. While Ford sits on his hands and blames others, more workers will become infected and the virus will continue to spread in Windsor-Essex,” said Natyshak.

Natyshak is proposing a series of measures that the Ford government can take right away to resolve the crisis and ensure Windsor-Essex can move to the next stage of re-opening:

Rapidly expand testing by deploying mobile testing units directly to farms to test all workers, whether or not they have symptoms, and protecting workers from facing any repercussions from getting tested

Provide proper accommodations for workers who need to isolate to replace the bunk houses where physical distancing is impossible

Develop a long-term plan for the farming and food processing sector that ensures migrant workers have safe working and living conditions, and avoids any disruptions to the food supply chain in the event of a second wave of COVID-19 in the future

“Now is the time for provincial leadership to resolve the crisis here in Windsor-Essex. Ford can start today by sending mobile testing units to farms immediately so we can contain these outbreaks and prevent more from happening.”

Ford admitted yesterday that only 724, less than 10 per cent, of the 8,000 migrant workers in Windsor-Essex have been tested for COVID-19. The program specifically for testing migrant workers, that was successful in creating a model to test workers in a safe, controlled environment, was shut down on June 18.

“Alongside ramping up testing for all migrant workers, Ford can take action to provide safe and healthy accommodation for workers who need to isolate so they are no longer forced to live in cramped bunk houses, and ensure they don’t lose out when they take time off by guaranteeing paid sick days,” said Natyshak.

Mexico’s ambassador to Canada said this week that migrant workers will no longer be allowed to come to Ontario until this crisis on our farms is resolved that could have a long-term impact on Windsor-Essex’s agricultural sector. Mexico’s consulate in Vancouver however told the government in British Columbia that because of their stricter protocols and handling of outbreaks, Mexican workers will be allowed to travel and work in B.C.

Natyshak says that while the local public health unit in Windsor-Essex is working hard to resolve the outbreaks on farms in the region, the Ford government needs to step up and take active leadership role to provide the logistical support, directives, and resources that are needed right away.

“Ford needs to get his act together by taking the necessary actions that will save lives, improve the conditions of migrant workers, and get the region back on track to economic recovery.”