Temporary foreign workers willing to make their stay more permanent if welcomed
If you are enjoying a meal cooked with farm fresh goods, chances are you can thank a worker from countries such as Jamaica, Barbados, or Mexico, among others.
Many farms in New Brunswick wouldn’t be able to survive without temporary foreign workers (TFW) under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). Linda Walker of Walker’s Strawberry Farm offers fresh produce at her farm’s stand and hired two workers this year. Her advice when hiring TFWs is to use F.A.R.M.S. (Foreign Agriculture Resource Management Service). It’s an intermediary between farmers and Service Canada. Though there is a charge to use the service, Walker says, “Their fee is well worth it whenever you hire TFWs. They peruse your application and assist with any issues before you send your application to Service Canada.”
TFWs that come to New Brunswick form close bonds with the farmers and their communities. This may seem like an inevitable consequence, but with the Maritime way of life, it’s almost a given. Even though they’re here to work, TFWs are often invited into farmer’s homes, get to know their families, and attend community events.
Shane Smith is from Jamaica and working at Walker’s farm just outside Sussex, New Brunswick. When asked if he would stay in New Brunswick if he could he is emotional about his answer.
“I work here and send money home to my family, but I would stay here permanently if I were allowed. I love farm work and there are lots of jobs here. I love the people too.”
He had no issues with his application except for the processing time it takes to finally get here.
James Golding is the Jamaican Liaison Officer for the SWAP program. He says, “The one thing New Brunswick could do is provide Medicare coverage for TSWs like they do in Ontario. Currently, TSWs have to purchase private insurance which is very expensive for them. They pay federal and provincial taxes, so they should be eligible for this service. TSWs can only qualify for Medicare after they have been here for a year. Many workers are only here for a few months.”
In Ontario, if TFWs meet certain requirements, they can obtain coverage through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).
The number of TFWs was up 50 per cent between the early 1990s until the late 2000s according to a StatsCan research report. Workers in the agricultural industry are more likely to transition to permanent residences if they come here from a less economically-developed country.
Convincing TFWs to seek permanent residence in New Brunswick is one way of increasing the province’s immigration rates. Smith believes this can be accomplished if the province reaches out to TFWs in the communities where they work. He says if they feel welcome and are invited to join with others in a social environment, they will certainly be more likely to want to stay.
“It’s more than the money. It’s the experience of being here,” Smith says.