Western Agriculture Labour Initiative
The Western Agriculture Labour Initiative (WALI) works with employers and governments to enable employers to find adequate domestic workers and continually improve working conditions for temporary workers.
Supporting the Seasonal Agricultural Worker program (SAWP) and, to a lesser degree, the Ag Stream program is a major initiative for the
BC Agriculture Council (BCAC). In late 2016, BCAC created a subsidiary corporation the Western Agricultural Labour Initiative (WALI) to lead this work.
In 2017, employers using SAWP began contributing directly to support this work. These funds are enabling WALI to assist with:
- Processing completed Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) applications
- Increasing representation at the national level
- Facilitating more regional engagement with employers, and
- Working with government partners to ensure safe working conditions for all employees.
WALI is not currently staffed nor licenced to assist individual employers with LMIA applications. In 2018, some of these funds will be used to support the hiring of additional staff. In late 2017, the BC Ministry of Health announced that they would begin work updating the Industrial Camp Regulations (ICR) to ensure healthy living conditions for workers and meeting the requirements of federal programs (such as SAWP).
We have been pushing to update the ICR for several years. WALI is part of an inter-agency working group (Ministries of Health, Labour, Agriculture and industry) working on improving the ICR along with other initiatives relating to temporary foreign workers (TFW). We anticipate engaging with employers later in 2018.
OUR STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
- We believe in using foreign workers only when there are no Canadians willing or available to do the work.
- We believe that all workers operate in a safe environment and that their rights are respected and promoted.
- BCAC represents agricultural employers' interests with government regarding program design, operations and problems.
WALI BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The BC Agriculture Council board of directors serve as the WALI board of directors.
WALI Executive Committee
- Rhonda Driediger, WALI Board Chair
- Sukhpaul Bal, WALI Vice Chair
- Ray VanMarrewyk, Treasurer
CURRENT WALI EMPLOYER FEES
Since the relaunch of WALI in 2016, our goal has been to operate the business in a cost recovery framework. Revenues have been limited to fees for housing inspection forms, per SAWP worker fee, and an annual per employer fee. For the first several years, the per employer fee was waived for employers who had a current BC Farmer ID card or were members of a BCAC member association .
It took considerable time and resources by BCAC and our members’ staff to verify which employers were or were not current members and eligible for the discount. In the fall of 2019 the BCAC/WALI Labour committee, which includes representatives from most BCAC member organizations agreed to eliminate this exemption. The waiver for BC Farmer ID cardholders continues.
WALI has significantly increased the support for all employers accessing TFWs this year.
- Held twice weekly conference calls (now only weekly) with the Labour Committee members (and guests) to discuss current issues and development.
- Created an electronic news letter to provide current information. Currently reaching over 1,000 email addresses.
- Worked with Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and AgSafe BC to create pandemic safety protocols.
- Worked with the Ministry of Agriculture to schedule pre-arrival housing inspections
- Worked with the Ministry of Agriculture, the hotels and Mi Tierra Holidays to safely transport workers from YVR to the quarantine site and from quarantine to the farms.
- Worked with Ministry of Health and Agriculture on workers held longer in quarantine and communicated this with employers
- Worked with Consulates, Liaison Services, and support agencies to assist workers traveling to BC, while in quarantine and now as they return home.
- Arranged charter flights from Jamaica, Mexico and Guatemala
- Worked with ESDC, IRCC and AAFC on government support programs, needed policy changes to protect workers and enable them to safely arrive in BC and for those in Canada extended SAWP contract and TFW able to apply in Canada to renew work permits.
- Worked with the Ministry of Labour in Mexico, Consulate of Mexico in Vancouver and Mi Tierra Holidays to help workers obtain travel documents as quickly as possible.
Our team is now actively working with provincial, federal and foreign governments to minimize disruptions to the 2021 season. As such, we do not have the resources to go back and issue refunds for employers now wanting to purchase a Farmer ID Card. This pricing framework will continue for 2021 and we suggest that farms using the TFW programs purchase their Farmer ID Card now to avoid the $150 employer fee in 2021.
More information on the BC Farmer ID card.