Embassy of Mexico in Canada
Ottawa, Canada, November 12, 2014
Mexican Secretary of Labour and Social Welfare, Alfonso Navarrete Prida, coordinated the work of the Mexican delegation that, along with its Canadian counterpart, will be evaluating the 2014 season of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) between the two countries. The coordination work took place at the Embassy of Mexico in Canada, with the participation of Mexican diplomatic and consular authorities and senior officials from the Secretariats of Labour and Social Welfare and Foreign Affairs.
Secretary Navarrete Prida also met with Canadian officials responsible for the SAWP at Employment and Social Development Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and Service Canada, and with industry representatives (British Columbia Agricultural Council, Canadian Horticultural Council, Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services and the Foundation for Entrepreneurs Recruiting Foreign Agricultural Workers), with whom he exchanged views on the SAWP.
This year Mexico and Canada are commemorating 40 years since the launch of the successful SAWP, which began in 1974 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries. The Secretariat of Labour and Social Welfare is responsible for implementing the program in Mexico, while the Foreign Ministry looks after the rights and working conditions of Mexicans during their stay in Canada.
The program began with 203 employees in its first year and has grown steadily to reach a record high of 19,829 workers in 2014, working on 1,684 farms in nine Canadian provinces. Half of the Mexican seasonal agricultural workers are in Ontario, 20% of them in British Columbia and Quebec respectively, and the remaining 10% split between the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The SAWP has become an exemplary scheme of circular labour mobility, whose success lies in ensuring safe, orderly and legal migration. The Program affords Canada the possibility of meeting labour needs while allowing Mexican families to benefit through obtaining secure employment.
In an effort to improve working conditions for Mexicans participating in the program, the governments of Mexico and Canada hold annual meetings to evaluate the program and propose improvements to it.
One result of these efforts has been to establish a system for workers to evaluate their employers, with a scoring system from 0 to 100. In 2012, Canadian employers received an average score of 87 points. Meanwhile, 80% of agricultural workers are invited by their employers to return the following year and 40% of Mexicans participating in the SAWP have been in the program for 6 to 10 years. Mexican seasonal labourers work primarily in vegetables and legumes (38% of the total), fruits (26.5% of the total) and flowers (6.6% of the total).
The government is taking advantage of commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program to reaffirm its commitment to defending the rights of Mexicans who participate in the program, and to promote institutional arrangements that ensure orderly, safe, and legal migration.