Mexican worker reaches undisclosed settlement with Langley blueberry farmer

March 9, 2016

By Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun|

A Mexican temporary foreign worker has reached an undisclosed settlement with a Langley blueberry farmer following mediation with the provincial Employment Standards Branch.

Omar Figueroa Ramirez, 24, had sought almost $20,000 in outstanding wages, overtime and vacation pay from his former employer, Randhir Singh Pandher of Pandher Farms. Terms of the settlement cannot be disclosed, though it cannot be construed as an admission of liability by Pandher.

Ramirez said in an interview he is reasonably satisfied with the outcome and that he now hopes to find new employment, either in the hotel industry, agriculture or as a construction labourer. He hopes to stay in Canada, become a permanent resident, and eventually obtain a post-secondary education.

Ramirez, who rents a room in a Langley home, also said he hopes his experience, published Jan. 30 in The Vancouver Sun, can serve as an example to other foreign workers to ensure their employers live up to the terms of their contracts.

Too often they only complain about their conditions once they return to Mexico, when it’s too late to achieve anything, he said.

“I hope my experience will help other workers, from Mexico, Philippines, India, wherever,” he said. “When they come to Canada, they have to know they have rights.”

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, there were 15,817 seasonal Mexican farm workers in Canada in 2010 compared with 19,946 in 2014. In B.C. alone, the numbers increased to 4,521 from 2,986 in the same five-year period.

Ramirez’s 24-month temporary foreign worker contract provided for pay of $10.50 an hour, a 40-hour work week, time-and-a-half pay beyond that, 60 minutes in breaks per day, two days off a week, and two weeks’ vacation — but no sick days.

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