Workers fired at farm of former BoG member

Monday, December 8, 2008


Written by Scott Gilbert

The University of Guelph has a policy called the Code of Ethical Conduct that regulates purchases made by the university to ensure they meet fair labour standards. This policy was passed a few years ago by the Board of Governors (the highest decision making body on campus).

At the time the policy was passed a voting member of the Board of Governors was Hank Vander Pol, the owner of Rol-Land Farms.

Rol-Land Farms is currently the centre of attention over a recent wave of firings.

Agricultural workers have for some time been unable to form a union under Canadian law. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union has been fighting for many years to change this, and just won the long battle 3 week aho. Much of this fight was undertaken by the UFCW and workers at the Guelph branch of Rol-Land Farms.

Yesterday, Rol-Land Farms fired 70 of the foreign workers in Canada on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This program is designed to bring in migrant workers (many from Mexico) to work for up to 2 years. The fired workers had been in Canada between 4 and 8 months each and are now being sent home. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is designed to allow employers like Rol-Land Farms to fire workers without notice, and regularly changes the work force as a means to keep them vulnerable.

The conditions the migrant workers had to ensure have been described as "dangerous" and "filthy", along with low wages.

The U of G's Code of Ethical Conduct would not permit mushrooms from Rol-Land Farms to be purchased by the university, yet the owner of the company was allowed to vote on major decisions at this university. This fact was a major point of contention then, and will likely be brought up again in light of this recent development.

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  1. Posted by: Wow. on Dec 9, 2008 @ 9:03am

    This is disgusting. I cannot believe Hank Vander Pol used to represent the University of Guelph, and made major decisions for this institution. The University should publicly condemn his actions, but I doubt they will, considering how they jerk our campus unions around.

  2. Posted by: Nicole on Dec 9, 2008 @ 3:24pm

    Agricultural workers traditionally have low wages because it is not skilled work that they are performing.

    Of course working in agriculture is a dirty job, a mushroom farm is no exception. Are these low wages below the current minimum wage standards? Or how about did you even consider that even farmers themselves often don't make what would be considered minimum wage.

    Perhaps the firings are more due to the failing economy like the thousands of jobs being lost in the auto sector and supporting companies because of the failing economy?

    Have you spoken with a representative from Rol-Land Farms about their policies or any of these migrant workers?

    Or, have you simply reworded a Toronto Star article and called it your own without actually investigating the facts? This piece is little more than propaganda and a poor piece of journalism.

  3. Posted by: George on Dec 9, 2008 @ 4:11pm

    You try to find me a farm that isn’t dangerous and filthy and maybe I will buy your case. I have worked on plenty of farms and that’s the nature of what they’re like.

    I agree with Nicole, I read this same article in the Toronto Star the other day. That's kind of tacky that you just ripped the article off and made a connection with Guelph.

    Did you neglect to realize that the program is called Temporary Foreign Worker Program, it’s for temporary staff…i.e. they don’t have job security.

    Scott, nothing you write is actual journalism; it's always just unfounded accusations about why someone is less morally correct than you are. But keep it up!

  4. Posted by: Rebecca on Dec 9, 2008 @ 8:52pm


    There was a report on cbc radio about this yesterday. It would appear that this has nothing to do with the economy: the 70 workers from Jamaica and Mexico that have been fired are being replaced with 70 more from Thailand.

    Additionally, it is not a matter of a poor farmer who can't afford to pay the bills her/himself. Rol-Land farms is a $50-million a year, privately owned corporation. You are entitled to your own opinion Nicole, but not your own facts, and I suggest that instead of making up false excuses for the firings, we look into what actually happened.

    These are human beings, not baseball cards, and you should not be allowed to trade people like this. You cannot fire people and destroy their lives for absolutely no reason. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program should afford basic workers' rights to the people in the program.

    George, I've also worked on numerous farms. In fact, I grew up on one. If you read some of the testimonials of people who work on farms through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, I can assure you that you would find it is a very different experience than the one I (and like you) have had.

  5. Posted by: nick on Dec 9, 2008 @ 9:12pm

    If the workers were so annoyed and angry about the pay and working conditions, and didnt enjoy the job then they are probably glad that they dont have to do it any more right? Im sure they are much happier, safer, and well-paid back in Mexico and Jamaica!

  6. Posted by: Chris on Dec 10, 2008 @ 12:02am

    So, he USED to be a member of the board? Not a current one? So this story really has no relation to the school other then the fact that the guy used to be on the board of governors.

    Scott, thecannon is supposed to be a website for and by students....not a soapbox for small time activists to perform journalistic fellatio on neo-communist 'issues'.

    They aren't citizens, if the don't like working conditions here then they can go work in the far better (thats sarcasm) conditions down in Mexico.

  7. Posted by: itshardtopost on Dec 10, 2008 @ 11:05am


    thecannon hasn't really been a website for and by the students for a long time. Remember all the bs activism articles from last year?

    The only reason this place still gets traffic from the majority of students is selling and buying textbooks.

  8. Posted by: FAIL on Dec 10, 2008 @ 4:18pm

    "he only reason this place still gets traffic from the majority of students is selling and buying textbooks."

    You forgot the half-dozen wankers whose lives are made complete by complaining about everything to the internet.

    I'd eat a rock if any of you idiots could do the work these migrant workers are doing without breaking down. Grow the fuck up.

  9. Posted by: George on Dec 11, 2008 @ 8:00am

    Relax FAIL, we're just having a good time, you'll give yourself an aneurysm if you're that stressed about this sort of thing. Ironically, you're complaining about people complaining LOL

    I think this Rol-Land Farms situation requires another board of governors sit in! U-N-I-T-Y!

  10. Posted by: Her on Dec 12, 2008 @ 2:29pm

    Guelph Mercury article...

    "As a result of current economic circumstances, Rol-Land Farms has determined that it is in the best interests of its shareholders, employees and creditors to seek protection pursuant to the CCAA and to restructure so that it can emerge as a stronger and more viable operation."

  11. Posted by: Wow. on Dec 12, 2008 @ 8:04pm

    I think the Rol-Land situation has proven yet again, George, Nicole, itshardtopost, Nick, and Chris that there are a lot of people who post absurdly, ignorant comments because thecannon.ca is anonymous.

    To suggest that migrant workers are lucky to be in Canada and that they should not complain because they are "lucky" is as racist as the Vander Pols.

    For example, if you read better news sources than the Mercury and National Post you might have learned that how Canada treats migrant workers is racist, unsafe, and shameful.

    Globe and Mail,

    "What happened to the Rol-Land farm workers exemplifies everything that's wrong with Ottawa's temporary foreign worker program, according to Dr. Jenna Hennebry, who heads the International Migration Research Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University.

    "There's a great fear of replacement, of reprimand, of forced repatriation, a loss of pay, a loss of deposits to unregulated recruitment agencies, in particular cases. There's also problems in some cases of immediate eviction, as we've seen in this case."

    Maybe FAIL is pissed because it is extremely frustrating to hear such narrow-minded comments from people I have to sadly assume are students.

  12. Posted by: George on Dec 15, 2008 @ 9:44am

    Relax Wow., we're just having a good time, you'll give yourself an aneurysm TOO if you're that stressed about this sort of thing.

    I always get this strong feeling that Wow. and FAIL and all the other extreme-lefties out there would rather have everyone with divergent views from them completely shut-up and admit that we’re morally inept.

  13. Posted by: itshardtopost on Dec 15, 2008 @ 11:35am

    Agreed, George.

    It's like they expect that because we're all students, that we should all have the same opinion as them. The extreme left hive mind, if you will.

  14. Posted by: Kyle on Dec 15, 2008 @ 4:23pm

    There has been some interesting points raised by the people commenting. Firstly i fully agree that this article is biased and does not have the facts. The program that is referred to in the article is called F.A.R.M.S. which enables migrant workers to get access to green cards, health care and work standards that are ensured by local health authorities, fire departments etc. Furthermore, under the program Ontario minimum wage is required and rules are in place to ensure that the workers are not exploited. While at no time am i defending Rol-land farms, there is not enough information. The ability for farm workers to unionize can have devastating effects, harvesting of produce needs to happen, so a 40 hr week doesn't work.

  15. Posted by: George on Dec 16, 2008 @ 9:14am

    There is one statement in this article that I want to know if it is correct or if it’s the author’s blunt assertion, that is “The U of G's Code of Ethical Conduct would not permit mushrooms from Rol-Land Farms to be purchased by the university, yet the owner of the company was allowed to vote on major decisions at this university.”

    Has the university actually in the past not permitted mushrooms from Rol-Land Farms to be purchased because of the Code of Ethical Conduct? Or are you just assuming mushrooms purchased from Rol-Land Farms wouldn't stand the test of the Code of Ethical Conduct without doing any research into it?

  16. Posted by: Tom on Dec 16, 2008 @ 1:16pm

    It’s really no surprise that Scott Gilbert wrote an unflattering and bias article about an agricultural corporation. This is the man who after all ran as a candidate for the Communist Party of Canada in 2006.

    I think the government should provide the base funding for a bunch of far-left socialists to start up and try to run a competitive company the way they claim every other company out there should operate and see how long they last. Once they burn through their initial funding and collapse because of lax management and careless spending the debate can finally end.

  17. Posted by: deng on Dec 18, 2008 @ 6:37am

    There is no reason whatsoever to exploit other people. Why in the world would they design such a program that has no job security. If you guys justify the firing of those workers and you don't care of what they go through, then advice those companies not to bring in workers from another country and let Canadians do it by themselves. If their service is not important and does not deserves respect, why in the world do you go for them? Because they are vulnerable?

  18. Posted by: Lorne on Dec 18, 2008 @ 2:50pm

    I'm a owner and manufacturer and have been suffering in business the last year because of the World Wide down turn in the economy. I believe we all have to work the problems and not create more. I lived in the country not far from Cambellville when I was young and my parents made me learn what working was about by laboring for local farmers. I worked hard and yeah I was paid very little but it made me respect them that much more. Know one is going to tell me what it's like because i did it for years without complaints. Mr Vander Pol's family and many other families (mine included)come from immigrants from Europe who have come here and employed Canadians. Maybe we should send a delegation of Union and Non-Union workers to Jamaica and Mexico for 8 months and work in there conditions. You would think the way a lot of people are talking that we are back in the 30's and it was Walter Reuther getting beat up by Ford's henchmen. Stop the non-sense and support Rol-land as It will only help keep Canadaian's employed in these hard times.

  19. Posted by: R on Dec 20, 2008 @ 12:21pm

    I think this George guy should take to the fields and see how much he pontificates afterwards.

  20. Posted by: Arden on Dec 22, 2008 @ 12:44pm

    Truth be told, if they don’t want to work in an environment that is "dangerous and filthy with low wages” then they should go to their home country or somewhere else that will suit them. This is the great thing about democracy and the free market, you can quit, resign, and move on. You own your own labour and can do what you want with it.

  21. Posted by: silvie on Dec 24, 2008 @ 7:12pm

    just a thought about free market that I think people need to understand: mexico used to be self sufficient, economically too! then NAFTA showed up. US was overproducing wheat and corn and NAFTA gave them a great excuse to flood the Mexican market. Obviously their pricing was less, and local mexican farmers were outcompeted and lost their ability to farm. This was their livelihood for years. (Not to mention, that the US is introducing genetically modified crops while mexico used to hold very interesting diversified corn crops.) Mexican farmers no longer have the flexibility and many are forced to come to Canada as migrant workers to support their families. I can't imagine they leave their families for months at a time out of choice and excitement; especially when they don't know the language and many are not ensured for any health problems that they may encounter.

  22. Posted by: itshardtopost on Dec 30, 2008 @ 11:58am

    So, just wondering.

    Since Canada is in a recession right now and lots of people are losing their jobs, including many people that I know, why is there still a Temporary Foreign Worker program? Shouldn't we be focused on giving work to those people out of a job, rather than importing labourers?

  23. Posted by: Minxx on Jan 11, 2009 @ 6:44pm

    Since reading the Rick Hillier piece I would not believe anything Scott Gilbert writes. Please research anything he says before believing it.

    I'd like to know how you got away with changing your original piece re: "War Criminal Rick Hillier" without alerting readers to the fact that the piece had been edited.

    You lack credibility, Scott Gilbert, and if you don't like the University of Guelph's decision to award General Hillier for Leadership, then go find another university to haunt.

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