The Legal In/Security of Temporary Migrant Agricultural Work: Case Studies from Canada and Australia

Andrew Newman


Despite differing labour law systems and program structures, temporary migrant agricultural workers under the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and Australian Seasonal Worker Program often possess minimal security of employment rights and protections, despite potentially lengthy periods of consecutive seasonal service to the same employer. Such lesser rights and protections are partly due to the central role played by continuity of service in determining the length of reasonable notice periods and the strength of unfair dismissal protections and stand-down/recall rights. Although it is often presumed that the temporary duration of the seasonal work visa necessarily severs the legal continuity of the employment relationship, such is not the case. This article argues that security of employment rights and protections can be re-conceptualised to recognise non-continuous seasonal service within the current parameters of a fixed-term work visa. In both Canada and Australia this could be accomplished through contractual or collective agreement terms or through the amendment of labour law legislation. Such reforms would recognise a form of unpaid ‘migrant worker leave’, whereby the legal continuity of employment would be preserved despite periods of mandatory repatriation, thus allowing accrual of security of employment rights and protections.

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