Fredericton, March 8, 2021 – Agriculture NB urges the New Brunswick government to revisit the new Provincial restrictions for Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW).
In an email to industry stakeholders March 5th, the Department of Post Secondary Education, Training and Labour announced that TFW’s would be required to quarantine individually (with individual bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry and kitchen facilities) for 14 days upon entering the Province, effective immediately. Currently, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) who manages the TFW and Seasonal Agricultural Worker (SAWP) Programs allows that “The employer can house workers who are subject to quarantine together, but the housing must enable them to be 2 metres apart from each other at all times.”
The agricultural sector supports measures that increase the safety and wellbeing of workers but these restrictions are financially oppressive to farmers and taxing to the mental and physical health of the workers. The Government of New Brunswick should be considering the best practices for both safety of TFW’s and the population, and reducing the burden put on farmers. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have implemented programs that either assist the farms in keeping the TFW’s safe while quarantining or manage the entire quarantining process. Nova Scotia is also providing COVID-19 vaccinations to TFW’s recognizing that delays in the agricultural workforce cannot be translated into delaying crops.
The Government should create programs or manage quarantining facilities themselves instead of placing the responsibility on the farms who have already prepared with time and investment to safely house the TFW’s they hire, efforts that have now gone to waste. This would allow Public Health to ensure the safety of those entering the province, remove the burden from farms, and could allow the government to assist the hotel industry that has also suffered.
The government has been unwilling to listen to advice from industry stakeholders in the past, and it is clear that unlike our provincial neighbours, GNB does not prioritize agriculture. The Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries has been severely underfunded for years, and this along with public perception of the sector has meant that NB farmers have to work harder for every dollar they earn, and gives other provinces a financial advantage.
These restrictions as they are currently stated, must come with immediate financial assistance and mental health support from the Government of New Brunswick in order to implement them. The minimum estimates of the additional burden of costs for hotel rooms, meals, and pay for TFW’s required to isolate individually are $6300 per worker. For the agricultural sector this means an increased cost of $1.2 million put on the farmers. For the industry counterparts in Aquaculture and Fisheries this would equal $7.5 million at minimum, for the approximately 1200 TFW’s who have yet to arrive.
During the ban of TFW’s in NB last year, it was apparent that the local workforce cannot and will not replace these skilled workers, and many farms lost income or had significantly increased labour costs which will put them at a financial disadvantage already this year. These restrictions will cause, without support, scaled back production and increased food prices overall. The Government yet again, contradicts its claims of wanting a self-sufficient food system by adding burdens to farmers already carrying the weight of a pandemic and
Agriculture NB is the formal collaboration of the National Farmers Union in New Brunswick, the Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick and Really Local Harvest, to represent the New Brunswick agricultural sector at large.
Lisa Ashworth, President
Agricultural Alliance of NB, 506-452-8101
Suzanne Fournier, Executive Director
National Farmers Union in NB, 506-260-0087
Maxime Gauvin, Executive Director
Really Local Harvest, 506-317-0321