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Jamaica – Canada to improve SAWP

By Latonya Linton

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – The government is working with its counterpart in Canada to improve the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP). Almost 10,000 Jamaicans benefited under the programme in Canada during last year.

“We are working here as your government, in collaboration with the government of Canada, to make sure that we improve in the selection, in the orientation, [and] in the management process,” minister of labour and social security, Pearnel Charles Jr., said. “We are looking at the laws and the regulations, we are reaching out to all stakeholders that are relevant and connected to your journey and we are strengthening the liaison services for you,” he added.

The minister was speaking at the send-off of 111 SAWP workers, during a ceremony held at the Overseas Employment Centre, East Street, Kingston, January 3.

The workers will be taking up employment opportunities on various farms across Canada over a period of months.

Charles Jr., further informed that the ministry has spoken to and met with several stakeholders, such as senators, ministers, farmers and other partners.

“We will continue that dialogue to make sure that, as best as possible, we are creating an environment where you [workers] are safe, can excel and contribute, come back home and see where your hard-earned funds can be invested in your children, community and life,” he said.

Charles Jr., also informed that a stronger orientation programme is being developed for the workers. “2024 is the year when we are going to enhance, protect and improve this programme, and we cannot do it alone; it must be done in partnership,” he emphasised.

High Commissioner of Canada to Jamaica, Her Excellency Emina Tudakovic, said of the nearly 10,000 Jamaicans who benefited under the SAWP, 2,800 workers had 10 or more years’ experience and 1,400 workers were new to the programme.

“The participation of women in the programme has grown slightly from four per cent to seven percent. [Also], 100 per cent of applications are now processed online and we continue to streamline processes for improvement,” the High Commissioner also reminded the workers that their rights are important, and that they are protected.

High Comissioner Tudakovic further noted that while most workers in Canada have a positive experience, some do face abuses and substandard working conditions.

“Canada is committed and in conversations with your Minister. I also know that Jamaica is also committed to ensuring that your rights and dignity of all farm workers are protected,” Tudakovic said. “We have enhanced our regulations, we have enhanced abuse reporting channels, but I encourage you to raise any concerns.”

Meanwhile, state minister in the ministry of labour and social security, Dr Norman Dunn, congratulated the workers for taking the bold step of participating in the SAWP.

“One thing I want you to remember, is that you are an ambassador for Jamaica. You are not there about yourself only; you are there to work to assist your friends and families. We want to hear continuously good things from all of you, from all the farms that you are assigned to, you must be on your best behaviour all the time,” Dr Dunn said.

The Overseas Employment Programme has been a valued contributor to both the Jamaican and Canadian economies over the years. It has provided financing for many Jamaican families to elevate their standard of living.




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