Orchards that do not pay the pickers

Fruit picking in British Columbia : precarious work

Whether in the Okanagan Valley or elsewhere, the world of fruit picking is a unique and particularly difficult to manage for workers. Whether in tank, on the go, by plane or bus, every year hundreds of Quebecers travel a staggering distance to do this precarious work.

Paid for performance, the picking (or picking) is hard work that requires dealing with many aspects that affect our salary.

As our pay only depends on our speed of work, we are therefore dependent on the quality of the tree maintenance work, the whims of Mother Nature or the quality of the work organization of the orchard (unfortunately often poor).

In addition to having to submit to employer harassment compared to our legal status, our nationality, genre, or sexual orientation, through our look or our lifestyle, we tire of working endlessly for several days (or nights) in a row : except in case of rain, no leave during the season picking.

Like the majority of pickers come from elsewhere, our quality of life during work is also determined by the goodwill of our employers, who are responsible for providing us with decent camping facilities. Yet it is common for dozens (or even hundreds) from pickers have to share a tiny kitchen, overflowing chemical toilets, disgusting showers and generally degrading conditions.

Finally, at the end of our employment contract, it is still entirely possible that our employer may simply decide not to pay us for the hard work done.

Difficult working conditions

I introduce myself, my name is Luciano and like every summer for about ten years, I went to Western Canada last summer. Not for a trip trip or do rumba but rather to go to work, try to make a living. In the month of August, I went back to an orchard where I had worked in the past. I never had any problems with my employers. Everything was fine. I also felt privileged to be able to work on this farm rather than in another orchard more "hardcore", as in Dhaliwal orchards, Smagh old OPL (Orchard Pros Logistics Inc) where employees are treated very poorly.

I arrived in Creston, British Columbia around the 20 July 2017 to work at Shukin, the orchard in question. I worked there 18 consecutive days before continuing my journey. At the end of our last day of work, the secretary of the boss gave post-dated checks to some of us who absolutely had to leave the same day. I got mine without even worrying about anything (since I trusted them) and I left the same day towards Kelowna to go to a next contract which started the next morning.

A few days passed before I deposited my checks in my bank account. It was only after a week that I realized that my check had bounced for lack of funds. In the beginning, I didn't worry too much : I told myself that it was certainly a banking error and that everything was going to go back to normal. But a second and then a third week passed and nothing had changed. From that moment, I started to call my former boss to find out when it would be possible to receive my pay. I don't know how many voicemails, of texts, emails I left her, but to date I have not received any return calls. No message, even a "hello" or, we "are sorry for the situation".

Unpaid wages

Summer came to an end and I returned to Quebec. Upon my return, I wanted to apply for unemployment, but I realized that I was missing hours on my record of employment. So I wanted to get in touch with the boss’s accountant, but once again I hit a wall : no answer. Thanks to a friend who was a team leader while I worked at Shukin, I was able to claim part of my missing hours, but at present it is still missing. Sure, no help from the employment insurance office, where they just repeat to me that it is my responsibility to see that my hours of work are declared and that they can do nothing for me.

Today, we are the 16 January and more than five months after the end of my contract with Shukin, I always run after my money. They owe me several thousand dollars.

Because of these profiteers, my plans have drastically changed. I had to put all my plans aside to find a financial solution. Not only does this put me in significant states of stress and anxiety, not to know if I will see the color of my money, but it also shatters dreams I had to get out of this precarious job.

Knowing that I have a "legal" status (since i have my canadian citizenship), I don’t dare imagine what all my immigrant sisters and brothers endure, illegal immigrants, who suffer these injustices daily and have access to even fewer remedies than I do. This is how we treat agricultural labor, we exploit them and we throw them away when it's over. A rage arises in me when I hear the boss words, job, pay ... I guess it's a trauma!

If I decided to spread this story, it’s not to get any mercy but rather to get information out. If there are other comrades who find themselves in such a repugnant situation, I hope they do the same : we must talk about it and denounce the employers who operate BC orchards, knowing especially that Shukin Orchard is a very popular farm and frequented by many Quebecers. Share this letter in your networks !

Let us stand in solidarity with all the comrades who face these abuses of employer power on a daily basis. Together, raise our voices, stop being exploited, pressure, let's react! Let nothing go by !

Only combat unionism can change our conditions and put the bosses in their place.

Rage and Solidarity,



In english, In Spanish.

Photo credit: www.publicdomainpictures.net

3 replies
  1. jeremy robitaille
    jeremy robitaille says:

    Orchard pros logistics inc. is a contracting company that take care of their employees like no other in the industry. This is false and cheap bad propaganda about a company that invest everything on the well being of our seasonal workers .

  2. Adrien
    Adrien says:

    Oh that, Of course, in the Okanagan you have to be reactive, when getting paid. I remember having to threaten my boss to blow up his pickup truck to make me pay what he owed me. To be vigilant, count hours worked, don't let anything go ! Fuck the shit if need be, and above all do not let it go, it is important as much for his own dignity as for the comrades who come after us.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *