Against his will and with weeks left in the growing season, migrant farm worker Waldin Simpson is being sent back home to Jamaica today.
Thursday morning Simpson and another worker were driven from the farm they were working south of Tillsonburg, Ont., to Pearson airport. This afternoon they will be flown home.
From a financial perspective, the early return is catastrophic for Simpson and his family. They were counting on him to send home the bulk of the $11.41 an hour he earns harvesting cucumber and asparagus on the Kinglake Freshpac Farm near Vienna, Ont.
“We try to save some money to send back home,” Simpson said. “For our family to eat.”
Simpson said he and other farm workers face significant costs just to get to Canada, everything from work permits to background checks and medical exams. A total of 14 other Jamaican workers are expected to remain at the farm through September.
So why is he and another man being sent home early?
Simpson says they’re being singled out for complaining about problems with their paycheques.
‘It’s not a termination,’ farm owner says
However farm owner Frank Pihokker denies this. He says there simply isn’t enough work for the men after a lack of rain caused problems with his cucumber crop. He also says the men were properly paid for their work on his farm.
“It’s not a termination, it’s a work shortage,” Pihokker told CBC London. “Our crop is not performing as expected and we have a lack of a need for them to be here.
“I have tremendous respect for the workers that come from this program and the sacrifice they make. I tried to get them reassigned to a different position. There just isn’t anything available for them.”
Simpson’s work in Canada is arranged through the seasonal agricultural workers program (SWAP) which brings seasonal workers to Ontario farms. The program sends more than 20,000 workers to Ontario each year. Typcially they arrive in spring and stay until Fall.