Fruit pickers and seasonal farming staff will be required to take an online COVID-19 awareness course this summer.
The course is provided by the BC government and AgSafe, an independent association representing B.C. farm employers and worker organizations.
It outlines the rights and responsibilities of both employers and workers when it comes to COVID-19 and the provincial health officer’s rules and guidelines.
The AgSafe course is available in both English and French. Information provided will include physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning, work pods, transportation, tools and equipment, safeguarding community and First Nations health and monitoring employee health.
Earlier in June, 2020 the Ministry of Agriculture provided the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Economic Action Partnership with $112,000 to help ensure the provincial health officer’s requirements are met at two camping accommodation sites in Creston.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay Board approved the grant which was given to Factor 5 Consulting to administer and operate a temporary farmworker accommodation service. So far they have secured the Kozy Tent and Trailer Park in Creston through the 2020 summer picking season.
In lieu of this initiative, similar projects have gained traction in the province.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen was awarded with $60,000 to help support similar camping sites with on-site coordination. Campsite accommodations are also currently being explored in Summerland, Osoyoos, Naramata and the Similkameen. Meanwhile, another campground will spring up in Loose Bay in Oliver.
“Seasonal fruit pickers are a crucial part of our food supply system, helping to get delicious, B.C.-grown fruit, such as cherries, apples, grapes and berries, onto our plates,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “Our government is protecting these workers and local residents by making sure workers have a safe place to camp and are educated on the rules and guidelines Dr. Bonnie Henry has put in place here in British Columbia. The goal is to ensure community safety and this is an important step towards that.”
The online course can be found at: http://agsafe.lingellearning.com/login/index.php
For more details on the Provincial health officer’s order on industrial work camps: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/covid-19/covid-19-pho-order-industrial-camps.pdf