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January 2008, Volume 14, Number 1

Canada, Ireland, Japan

Canada. The United Food and Commercial Workers Canada released its annual report on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program in November 2007, concluding that the 20,000 migrants from Mexico and the Caribbean have few effective avenues to enforce their labor-related rights

The UFCW operates seven Migrant Worker Support Centers across Canada.

There are about 3,200 Mexican workers employed on 318 Quebec farms in summer 2007, plus additional workers from Guatemala; most earn about C$8.50 an hour. FERME, the employers' organization, opposes efforts of the UFCW-supported Centre d'appui pour les travailleurs agricoles to "educate" migrants about their rights. FERME notes that 75 percent of the Mexican workers in Quebec are returnees; advocates say that workers who turn to the Centre d'appui for help risk exclusion from the program.

Migrant workers are on probation for their first two weeks in Canada. They pay into the unemployment insurance system, but cannot draw benefits. However, since 2004, migrants can receive parental benefits for children born after 2004.

Ireland. Workers from Eastern European countries such as Poland have dominated the seasonal farm work force since 2004. There have been several reports of worker abuse, especially involving workers sent to mushroom farms by staffing agencies.

In December 2007, one of the largest Irish mushroom farms, Monaghan Mushrooms, signed a Registered Employment Agreement at the Labor Court regulating wages and working conditions for their workers in an effort to set a new direction.

Japan. Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology Professor Shigeki Toyama in January 2008 announced that he had developed a "robot suit" for farmers by modifying those developed for nursing care workers. There are two million Japanese farmers aged 70 or over, and the suit, expected to cost about 200,000 yen, helps them to lift heavy objects.

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