Labour advocate decries death in Norwich crash

A union advocating for agricultural workers in Canada is speaking out after the death of a seasonal labourer in a car crash near Norwich last week.Jermaine Booth, 41, of Jamaica died in a crash July 9 on Potters Road near Norwich, a small community about an hour west of London, after the SUV he was driving veered from the road and flipped into a nearby farm field.Booth died on scene, while his four passengers, also identified by police as seasonal workers, were taken to hospital.Police continue to investigate the crash, and have not released any details about its cause.While little is known about Booth, including where he worked, a union that advocates for migrant and temporary workers said these types of accidents are all too common among seasonal workers.“Migrant workers and the agricultural sector are in a very precarious position, there are a lot of dangers,” said Santiago Escobar, national representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).“In most cases we have learned and see that workers don’t know … their rights, don’t know what the employer or supervisor should provide and inform in terms of health and safety,” he added, noting the right to refuse work as an example.The Jamaican Liaison Service, a service established by the Jamaican government to work with the Canadian government and employers for Jamaican seasonal agricultural workers, did not return a request for comment Tuesday.The UFCW strongly advocates for workers to unionize, and Escobar said they see a difference between unionized and non-unionized workplaces.However, for non-unionized workers, including many seasonal labourers like Booth, there is the UFCW’s Agricultural Workers Alliance. The association boasts 13,000 members, and is an option for migrant workers.“It provides support like health and safety training, know your rights (training) and provides support to victims of abuse,” he said.Escobar said that after a case like the Hampstead crash that killed 11 migrant workers near Stratford in 2012, the push for workers to know their rights has been stronger. The coroner at the time decided against an inquest into the crash, a decision the UFCW decried at the time.Escobar said his organization has few details on the crash involving Booth and four other seasonal workers, but said that fatigue and overwork, especially on night shifts, could contribute to crashes like the one seen last week. The Hampstead crash was caused by driver error, an investigation concluded.The UFCW has a program for migrant workers in the event an accident does occur, a “life insurance” of sorts that can be awarded to the victim’s family, Escobar said, typically about $5,000 – though he noted the UFCW fundraised about $230,000 after the Hampstead crash.And, late last month in Simcoe the UFCW held its first ever consultation between the province’s Ministry of Labour and seasonal and migrant workers, to include seasonal and migrant workers’ feedback in the province’s labour strategy.About 45 workers attended, and Escobar said they hope to continue the conversation, in order to make sure all workers are informed of their rights and prevent future accidents.“These issues and fatalities and accidents could be prevented with mandatory training,” he said. “It is common to find (workers) don’t know their rights.”On June 4, a change in federal policy came into effect that allows all migrant workers experiencing “physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse” to apply for an open work permit, a change from many of the employer-specific permits currently issued, in an effort to combat abuse of workers. read more

Highway 6 Remains Closed Following Mud Slide

Following mud slides on Thursday evening, Highway 6 remains closed in both directions as of Friday morning.Reportedly, a debris flow left over three feet of mud on the road near Thistle Junction at mile post 198, just west of Tie Fork Rest Area. Another slide on U.S. 89 near Birdseye, which was also causing traffic delays, has been cleared.The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has projected a clean up time of 12 p.m. on Friday afternoon. UDOT is recommending using US-191 and US-40 as alternate routes.