MP sounds off on undocumented workers and COVID-19

Chatham-Kent-Leamington MP Dave Epp. Photo courtesy Dave Epp/Twitter.

The Member of Parliament whose riding includes a community hard hit by COVID-19 has called for adjustments in the federal Temporary Foreign Worker program.

Chatham-Kent-Leamington MP Dave Epp has provided his reaction to Leamington being one of the two Windsor-Essex communities, alongside Kingsville, remaining at Stage One of Ontario’s economic reopening plan from the pandemic. In a letter published Thursday afternoon, Epp called on the provincial government to reconsider and allow both municipalities to move to Stage Two.

“Our small businesses, through no fault of their own, are not able to open, or open with expanded offerings,” wrote Epp. ”Despite the best efforts of local and regional officials, many businesses feel left as hostages in the situation of bringing about testing and tracing compliance in another sector of the economy.  This simply is not fair, and it needs to be specifically addressed immediately.”

Leamington and Kingsville have experienced a huge rise in positive COVID-19 cases among migrant workers. A total of 191 positive cases were reported on one farm alone this past weekend, according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

As many as 8,000 temporary foreign workers have been employed this growing season by agri-food companies in the area.

Epp has also reacted to reports that as many as 2,000 temporary foreign workers may have been recruited to work locally without the proper documentation. In an email to BlackburnNewsWindsor.com on Friday, Epp acknowledged that he was in favour of allowing the TFWP, as long as the chance to hire Canadians always existed.

“If undocumented workers are allowed to continue to be a part of the workforce via Labour Contractors, where they are not subject to housing standards, employments standard, health insurance, etc, this is what threatens the integrity of the TFWP,” said Epp.

Epp has also called on the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers to cooperate with government officials to put practices in place that provide oversight to undocumented workers employed by labour contractors, which are in turn hired by greenhouse farmers.

“That practice of unscrupulous labour contractors has to stop,” said Epp.