HONOURABLE SHAHINE ROBINSON, MP
MINISTER OF LABOUR & SOCIAL SECURITY
First Dispatch for 2017 of Farm Workers to Canada
Tuesday, January 3, 2017 @ 11:00 am,
Overseas Employment Services Centre, East Street, Kingston
Today – the first working day of 2017 - is a special day for all of us in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
For me, as Minister, it is my first official assignment in 2017 – and the first time I am participating in the dispatch of Farm Workers on overseas assignment.
For the staff, it is the first set of workers to be sent off this year.
Most importantly, for the Farm Workers, you are the first set for 2017 to go to Canada.
Against this background of so many “firsts”, I welcome all gathered here today – our Permanent Secretary, Ministry staff, members of the media, other stakeholders and specially selected Farm Workers.
Let me - in the spirit of the season - wish you all the best for 2017 and hope that it will be a successful, prosperous year, both personally and nationally!
Ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow (January 4th), approximately 375 workers who have been selected under the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) will be departing for Toronto, Canada.
They have been selected to work in the following communities in and around Ontario, Canada:
- Niagara on the Lake
- West Lorne
- St Thomas
Ladies and gentlemen, many of you will be employed in greenhouse crop production in the cultivation of vegetables, fruits as well as other agricultural activities.
Most of you will be away for eight-months, and so you will be returning in the latter part of the year - and our best wishes and hopes go with you.
Let me remind all us and you the participants in particular that the Jamaica-Canada Employment Programme continues to be a constant source of job opportunity for thousands of Jamaicans, and a vital source of foreign-exchange remittances to the Jamaican economy.
The records reflect that, of the 15,611 Jamaicans who benefitted from employment overseas in 2016, more than 50% (or 8, 934) went to Canada.
This 8, 934 figure represented an increase of 844 new workers compared to the corresponding period in 2015 – and reflected placements under the Low Skill and Skilled Workers programmes.
LOW SKILL & SKILLED WORKERS PROGRAMMES
At this point, let me clarify the two streams of the Canadian programme, namely:
- The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP), and
- The Low Skill and Skilled Workers Programme.
The SAWP involves contractual agricultural workers who are recruited to meet the short-term demand of manual labour during planting and harvesting seasons.
The term “Low Skill” covers all groups of unskilled workers who travel to Canada to work who are not covered under the seasonal agricultural workers programme.
The “Low Skill” programme features employment in greenhouses as well as the cultivation of mushroom and other vegetables. Employment in the hospitality/fast food and seafood packaging industry is also categorized as “Low Skill”.
Truck drivers, auto service technicians, heavy duty mechanics, welders and others in the automotive industry are classified as skilled workers.
Ladies and gentlemen, we in the Ministry are working to ensure an expansion in the programme, and accordingly, we are pursuing strategies such as additional opportunities in existing markets and diversification to new ones.
We are seeking to advance the interests of enterprising Jamaicans who want to better themselves, provide for their families, and build their communities and our nation Jamaica.
DIVERSIFYING INTO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT)
In fact, since the beginning of December 2016, the Ministry has been seeking to recruit Information Technology (IT) Specialists to work in North America. These candidates are being sought for positions in a US software company. Interested persons are required to have computer science degrees and a minimum of three years working experience in the computer science field.
Ladies and gentlemen, this initiative is being pursued as part of a pilot programme being undertaken in partnership with the Jamaican Diaspora in the US.
With the increasing application of technology in practically all facets of our lives today, the opportunity to access more forms of employment through the use of technology is on the rise. These positions for which the Ministry is seeking qualified persons are actually virtual, so
As Minister, I am anticipating considerable uptake for these job opportunities – and information about the positions can be obtained at our Labour Market Information System (LMIS) website at www.lmis.gov.jm.
The Ministry is grateful, ladies and gentlemen, for the partnership being developed through the Diaspora and hope that the pilot programme will be a success.
OPPORTUNITIES IN GUANTANAMO BAY
At the same time, ladies and gentlemen, there are greater opportunities for hope as the Ministry is also seeking highly qualified candidates to fill positions at a prominent company which provides operational support at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Among the varied positions sought are:
General maintenance workers (skilled in carpentry, plumbing and masonry)
- HVAC Technician
- Automotive Mechanics
- Heavy Equipment Mechanics
- Heavy Duty Driver
- High Voltage Electricians/Linemen
- General Electricians
- Crane Operators
- Power Plant Operators
Again, details on these positions can be obtained at the LMIS employment portal at www.lmis.gov.jm.
Let me use this opportunity to urge jobseekers to ensure that they are qualified and possess the certification to capitalize on these opportunities.
More than ever, in this globalized world, it is critical that our young people, in particular, equip themselves with the necessary education and training to take advantage of employment offerings which will put them on a prosperous pathway.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank our Farm Workers for the hard and dedicated work they put in abroad.
I have seen them in action – and know that they are good Ambassadors for Jamaica.
I am pleading with the members of this group to continue as professionals at all times - both on and off the job - so that the good behavior you display will be the calling card for more Canadian farmers and business persons to request more Jamaican workers to come to Canada.
I am urging this because your behavior is being observed not only on the farms and at the other workplaces, but also when you go shopping; when you travel on the coaches; when you walk on the streets; when you go to the parks; and when you go to the restaurants and entertainment areas.
I am urging you, too, to observe regulations pertaining to your health and safety. I advise you all not to breach rules (such as absence without leave) which will disqualify you and other Jamaicans in the future.
I also remind you that while you are overseas, the Overseas Employment Family Services Unit will continue to focus on the welfare of your families - through a range of social interventions; including household visits; referrals for assistance; care for sick and injured; care of children and self-empowerment programmes.
As I close, I want to warn members of the public about dealing with dishonest and unscrupulous persons who offer overseas jobs.
I urge you, in your dealings, to verify with the Ministry, the authenticity or legitimacy of all such agencies before making any commitment. I urge you to contact the Ministry before sending payments through any remittance service. Also be careful about jobs being offered through the Internet or on social media.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Ministry is excited about the potential of the Canadian Farm Work Programme for this fiscal year and the upcoming ones.
Last year, we observed the 50th Anniversary of the Programme, which began in 1966.
As we move towards another 50 years, let us make growth and prosperity a lasting legacy.
I thank the staff of the Liaison Service and the team at the Ministry for the work they put in everyday to make this programme successful.
I thank the employers and the Management Committee of the Canadian programme for the oversight and general management of the programme.
Let us continue to unite as stakeholders to keep the overseas employment programmes going.
God bless you, Farm Workers, as you go.
God bless Jamaica land we love. Thank you.