From a release
Canadian mushroom growers are asking the federal government for help filling hundreds of job vacancies across the country, after losing their most experienced workers to federal legislative changes.
The workers, hired under the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, are obliged to return to their home countries after four years, leaving mushroom farms unable to replace the workers who have trained for years.
“Mushroom harvesting is skilled tedious work that Canadian mushroom growers are unable to fill with a local workforce,” says Bill Stevens, CEO, Mushrooms Canada. “The TFW program has been a win-win for the Canadian mushroom sector. Workers from countries such as Thailand and the Ukraine have establish roots and families in rural Canada.”
Mushrooms are harvested year-round, seven days per week, making mushrooms farms ineligible for the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Programs. Most mushroom workers are guaranteed minimum wage but may earn up to $20 per hour, based on piecework productivity bonuses.
Now, with those long-term workers sent home, farms are struggling to secure a reliable labour force. Mushrooms Canada has met with representatives from the federal government including the offices of Agriculture Minister Ritz, Prime Minister Harper, Ministers Kenney and Alexander. They have requested relief from the April 2015 deadline to send workers back to their home countries, and they have made requests to allow highly-skilled, experienced mushroom workers to apply for Canadian residency.
“Unfortunately I think Canada’s mushroom sector is a victim of unintended consequences for what the government’s well-meaning legislative changes,” says Stevens. “But we need immediate relief because our farms are suffering, and they can not remain competitive if they don’t have access to a full workforce.” If perishable mushrooms are not harvested, many Canadian workers will become unemployed.