Loading articles...

Province wants locals to fill hundreds of vacant jobs in absence of temporary foreign workers

Last Updated May 28, 2020 at 6:02 pm PDT

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. (Courtesy bcgov.ca)
Summary

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says the province usually relies on between 6,000 and 8,000 labourers per year

Only 1,500 workers have arrived in the province before COVID-19 travel restrictions took effect

A new website launched by the province shows 600 current vacancies in the sector

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Faced with a shortage of temporary foreign workers in B.C., the province is pleading for locals to give work in the agricultural sector a try.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says the province usually relies on between 6,000 and 8,000 labourers per year. Only 1,500 workers have arrived in the province before COVID-19 travel restrictions took effect.

“Given that there’s been these difficulties this year, it really calls for us to look at: How do we incent domestic workers?” she asks.

The ministry has launched a website meant to connect people looking for work with jobs as crop and seafood harvesters, food processing and farmworkers, and machinery operators.

“As we get into the bounty of our season we will see a deficit in labour and so we have about 600 jobs listed right now on the job site,” Popham says.

“Many British Columbians are passionate about buying local and are looking towards careers in the agricultural, seafood and food processing sectors. We are making it easier for employers and employees to connect so we can fill vacancies and get more British Columbians working to put fresh and local food on our tables,” Popham says.

A current or future labour shortage means some farmers are planting and harvesting less food.

“Farmers and producers are scaling back some of their production to reflect the labour that’s available to them. I was on a Zoom call with the mushroom industry [Wednesday] and they are in fact scaling back because they’re not able to access the labour they need,” Popham explains.

Berry production has also been impacted and welcomes a new way to find workers.

“B.C. berry growers are facing a serious labour shortage this season due to COVID-19, and this website is a good idea to let people know we are hiring and looking for their help. The berry industry urgently needs seasonal workers interested in harvesting and packing jobs. Many farms also have longer-term positions available in field and crop management and quality control, and this site could connect us to those people,” writes Parm Bains, owner, Westberry Farms in a release.