mushroom picker

Everyone is getting excited after news came out about jobs in Canada that pay really well. The jobs in question? Mushroom pickers.

Let us tell you about mushroom picking. We happen to know a little something about it because we’ve had the opportunity to help Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who got into a little bit (okay, not a little bit, they got into a LOT of) trouble working as mushroom pickers.

What is a mushroom picker?

A mushroom picker is a person who picks mushrooms. You don’t need much experience or qualifications to apply as a mushroom picker in Canada. All it involves is sorting and packing mushrooms, carry around crates of mushrooms (the crates themselves are heavier than the actual mushrooms) and be able to work in damp, enclosed environments (so if you’re afraid of the dark, or have fungus allergies, then maybe this job isn’t for you.)

How much does a mushroom picker make?

Mushroom pickers are paid minimum wage. That’s why Canadians aren’t rushing to apply for mushroom picker jobs, it doesn’t pay very well. True, it’s not an overly complicated job, but let’s face it: you’ll get bored from doing the same thing over and over again after a few hours. And we’re talking about mushrooms here.

Why is everyone getting so excited about going to Canada as mushroom pickers?

Everyone wants a better life, that is an undeniable fact. If you spend even a little bit of time on social media (we’re looking at you, Facebook), you might see how happy people are in Canada. Filipinos in particular, we love humble bragging about our new car, our big house, all the snow we’re having in April. What you might not see is how difficult it is to make ends meet here if you’re working a starter job (that is, minimum wage).

Talking about minimum wage is tricky business, especially when it comes to OFWs. If you convert from Canadian Dollars to Philippine Peso, it might seem like a lot of money, but don’t forget that if you live and work in Canada, you’ll have to spend money on food, clothing and rent. And that, ladies and gentlemen, doesn’t come cheap.

Canada has no placement fees for all OFW jobs

Canada is one of the very few countries in the world that doesn’t allow placement fees. Why? Jobs aren’t for sale in Canada. Unlike other countries, Canadian employers must first be authorized by the Government of Canada before they can hire OFWs. The reason why there’s no placement fee is that Canadian employers are expected to shoulder ALL costs involved in every OFWs’ recruitment (including two-way airfare).

The Philippine Government also does not allow recruitment agencies to collect fees from OFWs. It says so in the Addendum to the Employment Contract, which is authenticated by the Philippine Overseas Labour Offices (POLOs) in Vancouver and Toronto.

If you paid any kind of placement fees (which are usually done off the books, without receipts, and with instructions to keep quiet about it) or paid for your airfare going to Canada, you’re just as guilty as your recruitment agency of ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT. You probably won’t ever get your money back if you don’t have a detailed record of your transactions.

Why it’s such a bad idea to come to Canada as a low-skilled OFW in the first place

Do you know how far Manila is from Toronto? It’s 13,206 kms. EvaAir’s round trip ticket costs $1,348. It’s far and very expensive. That’s why it doesn’t make too much sense to spend any money at all to come to Canada just to make minimum wage. Even if you’re willing to pay a recruitment fee (which is not allowed), you’ll be making minimum wage (which is $14.00 per hour in the province of Ontario).

The worst part about it? You won’t have the chance to stay in Canada.

Why can’t mushroom pickers stay in Canada?

OFWs come to Canada under the Government of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Under this program, Canadian employers ask for permission from the Government of Canada to hire OFWs to fill positions for jobs that the government has identified as experiencing labour shortages (translated: they couldn’t find any Canadians who would like to work in these low-paying and oftentimes difficult jobs).

Let us emphasize the word “Temporary”. Under the program, low-skilled workers (including mushroom pickers) have a set contract, after which they’re told to get on a plane and go home. What do OFWs do? They don’t get on the plane and they instead choose to stay in Canada. Illegally.

And staying in Canada without authorization (that is, proper documents) is the absolute worst thing you can do.

What will happen if I go TNT in Canada?

There is an unknown number of undocumented Filipinos in Canada. Nobody knows how many (because they’re undocumented), but a recent study by Statistics Canada says there are a LOT. And not just from the Philippines, neither. Foreign workers from the Caribbean and Latin America also know how to do TNT (tago-ng-tago).

If you go down the TNT route, your Canadian employer will not be able to provide you with insurance coverage. They don’t have to pay you minimum wage neither. You’ll be stuck without a valid work permit, working long hours under difficult conditions for below minimum wage pay. If something happens to you, you will pay out-of-pocket (each visit to the doctor is on the average $100, $0 if you have provincial health insurance coverage). If there is (God forbid) a workplace accident, and the Province will be sent to investigate, your Canadian employer will get a slap on the wrist, and you will be sent home. Hopefully, not in a box.

Moral of the story

If it’s too good to be true, you can bet that it is. Don’t come to Canada as a mushroom picker, you will regret it.

Already in Canada and need help?

Are you an OFW in Canada and you need help? Don’t be afraid to ask. These are the contact numbers and addresses of the POLOs in Canada:

Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) Toronto
160 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 200
Toronto, Ontario M4P 3B5

(416) 975-8252

Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) Vancouver
World Trade Centre Office Complex
999 Canada Place, Suite 611
Vancouver, BC V6C 3E1

(604) 641-1234

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