The Idea of Farm Worker Unions in Canada is Ridiculous

By Shaun Haney,

This week on 60 Minutes they featured Brazil’s rise to world economic super power.  Brazil is the world’s largest producer of iron ore and beef while getting ready to host the Olympics and the World Cup.  Brazil is the competition in agriculture for countries like Canada and the United States.  Countries like Brazil and China are flexible and a lower cost producer than Canada.  Canada needs to be striving to become more efficient and productive while ridding itself of  unnecessary regulation and constraints if it is going to compete with Brazil.  One of these constraints and unnecessary regulations would be the addition of farm worker unions in Canada.

Could you imagine a labor stoppage during seeding or harvest?  Could you imagine getting to work on the first sunny day in three weeks and you can finally harvest and you have no employees because the farm workers union is playing hardball for some reason?  This is what will be more of a reality and something that you might need to contend with on your farm if people like James Clancy from the NUPGE gets his way.

Unions in general were formed in the early 1900’s for the purpose of achieving safer work environments for workers and fairer pay.  I have been involved in agricultural farm management for several years and I know that the lack of pay is no longer an issue at all.  Farm workers are paid very fair due to the scarcity of workers with the boom in the oil patch and competition from auto worker unions.

Most of the people that want to unionize farm labor talk about the lack of farm safety.  I am all for the improvement of farm safety and making sure that no farm worker is put into a dangerous situation. I do think that we can improve farm safety without the need to form unions.  The formation of farm worker unions would do nothing else but create some jobs for bureaucrats and make Canadian agriculture more uncompetitive in comparison to our friends in South America.


Have we learned nothing from the Canadian Auto Industry?  The industry pretty much forced itself into bankruptcy due to legacy costs and inflated wages that were $20 hour more than the US auto worker.  At this point in time the worst thing that could happen to the competitiveness of Canadian agriculture is the unionization of labor.  There really is no advantage for the industry to do so.

3 thoughts on “The Idea of Farm Worker Unions in Canada is Ridiculous

  1. I found the comments attached to the Globe and Mail article very interesting. It is very hard, I think, for those in Eastern Canada to look at how a farmers union will affect the rest of us in Western Canada.

    1. Sheena I think that it is incredibly hard for the overwhelming majority of farmers across Canada to comprehend how negative an impact the unionization of farm labor would be to the productivity and global competitiveness of Canadian agriculture. I do not believe that this will be an East versus West issue. Many of the people pushing for the unionization of farm workers don’t even work on or own farms.

  2. Ah the song of the farm owner. Yes unions make business difficult if you find the less restrictions on human resource management the goal. But you answered your own assertion when you outlined that ” Unions in general were formed in the early 1900?s for the purpose of achieving safer work environments for workers…”. And has the farm industry come up with any countermanding code of practice on working conditions and thereby taking away such drivers? Hadn’t seen anything lately. It’s always, “It’ll be over my dead body to have anything like that around here.”. And for all the “we can do this ourselves” stuff, farm jobs are in the highest group for work site deaths and injuries.
    The industry is well documented as an unsafe and risky place to put your career ambitions. And you try to even initiate a conversation on employee safety and standards and see how quick you get run out of town. Farm business tends to want to work on the every man for himself principle. And with small numbers of staff in all if not all farms, anyone working there is expected to handle themselves the same. Unions, associations, councils, organizations have a habit of bringing some collaboration and collegiality to issues and themes for a common good. Don’t be surprised if those with some compassion and stake in the workplace personal well being, take a similar tack with the law or formulating new ones. The animal rights movement spawned the animal welfare initiatives where none existed before. Maybe the social media will catch wind of this issue some time and bring it into the marketplace. WCB is a risk management tool where you can’t lose the business from employee suit for liability. But I’ve never heard any farm mgt. advisors talk about that. But hey if it keeps you warm with moral umbrage about you can’t do that to me/us, then continue the fight. And by the way, skip the analysis of the auto industry. It strikes me you are engaging in what you disparage non-farm persons who discuss farm worker initiatives. Driving a truck doesn’t make one an expert auto analyst. Besides your main argument against unions is that we’re different out here on the farm.
    I like the old song: Mothers don’t let your children grow up to be cowboys”

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