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New working group backs North Okanagan migrant workers

Vernon immigrant services, governments and local stakeholders collaborate to raise awareness of needs for temporary workers
Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster, from left, MP Mel Arnold, Ontario Tory MP David Epp, and VDICSS CEO Philipp Gruner recently met to share and collaborate on best practices and improvement ideas for migrant workers. (Contributed)

A new working group has been formed to help raise awareness to the needs of migrant workers in North Okanagan’s agricultural sector.

Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society (VDICSS), along with government representatives from all levels and local organizations plan to meet quarterly to collaborate, share and discuss gaps in service delivery and address the needs of migrant workers and employers.

“The North Okanagan relies heavily on migrant workers and we believe we have an opportunity to make positive impacts on these workers, employers and the agricultural industry in this region,” VDICSS CEO Philipp Gruner said.

Gruner said the immigrant and community services society is already providing some services to migrant workers and newcomers to the Vernon area, but more funding has been applied for that would allow the organization to expand its service and employ an outreach worker.

“This person would be dedicated to supporting migrant workers and employers who employ temporary foreign workers,” he said.

The meetings, which will be held four times a year, will follow the cycle of migrant workers from recruitment, arrival in the North Okanagan and employment over the summer months. The community working group will discuss reports on working conditions, employer compliance and identify additional needs for both employers and employees.

Future discussions will tackle topics such as providing culturally sensitive practices, awareness and recognizing racism, ensuring equality, equity and respect for people while promoting a positive experience while workers are temporarily residing the North Okanagan.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with the partners and stakeholders in this group to ensure we protect the dignity and humanity of migrant workers and their right to fair labour practices,” Gruner said, “as well as assisting employers by educating them of their roles and responsibilities.”

Recently, VDICSS also met with Shuswap-North Okanagan MP Mel Arnold, Ontario Tory MP David Epp and Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster to discuss and work together on best practices and improvement ideas for migrant workers.

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