(SKNIS): Officials from the Department of Labour on St. Kitts met with workers on Tuesday (December 20), to review the recently concluded 2016 Canada/Caribbean Seasonal Agriculture Workers Programme (CCSAWP) with a view to strengthening the almost 50 year cooperation arrangement.
Senior Minister and Minister of Labour, Honourable Vance Amory, supported by Acting Labour Commissioner, Shernel James, and other staff members interacted with 15 of the 23 persons who worked on various farms across Canada from March to November (albeit some workers returned in October).
Ms. James said the experience of working in a foreign country is good as it allows workers to gain a greater understanding of another work culture, which can translate into increased team work, efficiency and productivity when they reenter the local workforce.
“Also we know that our community, our families, depend upon the remittance that is gained annually from working in the season because of the saving scheme that is involved,” she said. “It involves you coming back in with foreign exchange which is infused into our economy, which helps to expand it and to grow it and to sustain it.”
Ms. James said that the officials were ready to hear feedback from the men who participated in the seasonal programme this year and are also prepared to address any challenges they faced with the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS) which has an administrative role in the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Programme (SAWP).
A number of issues were raised pertaining to insurance deductions, sick day benefits, a greater presence of liaison officers (in Canada), and the like. However, the majority of the discussion surrounded measures for the 2017 season. In the past, the farmers in Canada would pay for the visa for the workers, while the airfare of the worker to and from Canada would be shared half-half between the farmers and the workers. The new measures call for the workers to bear all of these costs.
Senior Minister Amory said that the staff of the Department of Labour was ready to help clarify some of these new issues.
“The staff will work, [after] hearing from you what your concerns are, what you would like to see us do more to make sure there is greater benefit to yourselves where possible, but also to make your involvement in the programme much more meaningful for yourselves individually but also as a group,” he said.
The minister of labour said he was in contact with a lawyer in Canada who has worked with the SAWP and he promised to send him additional information about the programme and how its advantages can be tapped by locals. St. Kitts and Nevis labour officials are also expected to engage with relevant Canadian officials on ways to expand local participation.