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Artículo de periódico

Seasonal workers raise swine flu fears on farms




Lesley Ciarula Taylor


Manuel Martinez arrived from Mexico Monday night and sailed through Pearson airport without problems or questions on his way to a job as a farm worker.


The Toronto Star

Texto completo

LEAMINGTON, Ont. – Manuel Martinez arrived from Mexico Monday night and sailed through Pearson airport without problems or questions on his way to a job as a farm worker.

Sitting in Tony's Tacos here yesterday, Martinez, 63, and five other farm workers said they were tested in Mexico for swine flu symptoms before boarding their Air Canada flight.

"We had no problem leaving Mexico," said Martinez, who comes from Oaxaca, where the first death from swine flu occurred.

Williams Nursery in Leamington had already been told its farm workers would be delayed, said Mary Vidal of the Agricultural Workers Alliance, which is run by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

She started handing out Spanish-language flyers yesterday to the 4,000 farm workers, most of them from Mexico, who arrived in January to work in the Leamington greenhouses.

St. Michael's Church in Leamington also warned workers at Sunday mass to watch for symptoms.

The fear isn't for workers here: it's for what an undetected, asymptomatic case of swine flu might do in the crowded bunk houses the workers will be living in all summer as the growing season gets into full swing.

"I don't think the hospitals are ready for it if it grows," said Vidal.

Farm workers are at less risk than temporary foreign workers because they are part of a government program and are getting increased screening, said Dr. Jenna Hennebry, associate director of the International Migration Research Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Tied to one employer and not tracked by either the Mexican or Canadian governments, the temporary foreign workers are arriving to work in construction, meat packing, hotels, farms and the food industry without the same surveillance as farm workers, she said.

"They are more at risk," Hennebry said. "They have to wait three months for health care. The health authorities need to set up immediate clinics."

Public health authorities she has been talking to seem to realize the urgency of testing on southern Ontario farms, where the first wave of 15,000 migrant workers begins arriving this weekend.

"These farmers would be done, probably forever. The cost would be in the billions" if swine flu strangled the supply of migrant workers or infected their ranks here, said Ken Forth, spokesperson for Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services, which oversees the seasonal workers program.

Farm worker activist Evelyn Encalada Grez said she is infuriated at how Mexican workers were being screened "when there are hundreds of Canadians flying back from Mexico. "I had no problems getting back to Canada (from Mexico) on Sunday," she said. "There was no screening of any sort."

Los sectores económicos

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Tipos de contenido

Análisis de políticas

Los grupos destinatarios

Conciencia Pública

Relevancia geográfica

Canada, Ontario, Alberta, México, Manitoba, Quebec, Colombia Británica, Otras provincias, Federal, Nueva Escocia, y National relevance