With the scramble for harvest labour continuing across BC, many growers are looking ahead to what the next season holds. To address the issues associated with labour, Ottawa is now accepting applications from employers for seasonal workers required in 2021.
The minimum recruitment requirements for several occupations have been waived to improve employers’ access to workers. These requirements include the need to advertise for positions domestically before seeking a labour market impact assessment (LMIA).
“Until further notice, the program is prioritizing certain occupations which are considered essential during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the federal government announced this summer.
These include general farm labourers, harvesters and greenhouse and nursery workers. Butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers are also on the list of jobs exempted from the usual recruitment requirements. The doors are also open to specialized livestock workers and farm managers.
Housing has been a key issue this year more so than in the past due to COVID-19 and the need to protect worker health. BC has dedicated more officers to inspect housing prior to worker arrival. In certain cases, those older inspection reports can be submitted with applications for 2021 arrivals.
“Service Canada is allowing old inspection reports to be submitted with an LMIA,” reports the Western Agriculture Labour Initiative, which administers the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program in BC. “However, employers are still required to complete a new inspection and send the form to Service Canada before the arrival of workers.”
WALI says it is working with the province to determine whether or not there will be any additional requirements for housing inspections as a result of COVID-19.
Both the province and Mexico have said protocols BC instituted this year could serve as a foundation for refinements to SAWP nationally.