Manitoba extends health coverage to migrant farm workers

May 15, 2013

The provincial government is ensuring that seasonal agricultural workers participating in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program have provincial health coverage while working in Manitoba, Immigration and Multiculturalism Christine Melnick announced today.

“Our government recognizes the hard and physically demanding work done by seasonal agricultural workers and we have heard the challenges they have faced with accessing health care,” said Melnick. “Manitoba’s economy relies on seasonal agricultural workers and we compete with other provinces to attract them here, which is why we’re changing our health coverage, to be in line with that already offered in Saskatchewan.”

Effective this summer, seasonal agricultural workers will become eligible for Manitoba Health coverage while they work in the province, waiving wait times for eligibility which is consistent with the approach used in Saskatchewan. There are between 300 and 400 workers who come from Mexico and Caribbean countries to do seasonal agricultural work in Manitoba every year. Currently, these workers are required to have health insurance through a private insurer and pay out of pocket for it.

“We applaud this government for recognizing temporary seasonal workers and giving them access to universal health care. This announcement will give these workers a definite peace of mind knowing in their time of medical need they won’t be facing mounting health-care bills,” said Jennifer deGroot, co-chair, Migrant Worker Solidarity Network. “The decision to extend health-care coverage to this group of vulnerable workers, combined with other initiatives such as the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act, positions Manitoba as a strong leader among the provinces in providing important protections to migrant workers.”

“Seasonal agricultural workers work hard to grow the food that Manitoba families enjoy and as taxpaying residents of Manitoba, they deserve the same public health care that other taxpayers already receive,” said Jeff Traeger, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 832. “On behalf of these workers, UFCW thanks the Manitoba government for extending provincial health coverage.”

The Manitoba government has made a number of improvements to universal health coverage to ensure families living in Manitoba have access to doctors and nurses when they need them. The health insurance waiting period for military families has been eliminated. As well, after the federal government announced it was eliminating coverage for regular RCMP members and special constables effective April 1 of this year and reducing benefit levels for newly arrived refugees and refugee claimants, effective July 1, 2012, Manitoba extended universal care to ensure these individuals and their families would get the health care they need, said the minister.

To ensure workers know about their rights, the province makes Workplace Safety and Health information available in multiple languages including English, French, Chinese, German, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish and Tagalog.

Along with a website at, the Manitoba government produces:

tip cards, fact sheets and post cards outlining workplace safety and health rights, and responsibilities;
the Seasonal Worker Safety and Health Orientation Leader’s Guide and participant guide workbooks;
the Building a Safe Workplace Community Guide training course for employers and workers; and
the Safe Immigrant Workforce for Manitoba training course for employers.