By Kimone Witter
The provincial government in Ontario, Canada is reviewing how workplace safety claims filed by seasonal farm workers are handled following a years-long appeal by four Jamaican migrants who were permanently injured on the job.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board confirmed that the six-month review was launched on September 22.
It will examine how Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program employee claims are distributed – and for how long injured migrant workers can receive payments.
The probe follows an appeal launched by the group of workers, all of whom were permanently injured in separate workplace incidents on Ontario farms between 2006 and 2017.
They were told by the Board that they were only entitled to loss of earnings benefits equal to 12 weeks or less after being sent back to Jamaica.
In their appeal, the workers argued they were entitled to greater compensation, as the toll of their injuries extends far past a 12-week timeline.
The workers won their appeal.
In a September 15 decision by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Appeals Tribunal, chair Rosemarie McCutcheon recognised the undisputed existence of systemic anti-Black racism and precarious employment entrenched in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, which arranges farmers, primarily from Jamaica and Mexico, to work in Canada for eight months.
According to Chris Ramsaroop with Justice for Migrant Workers, the decision has the power to set a precedent that could improve the lives of migrant workers.