Honourable Shahine Robinson, MP
Minister of Labour and Social Security
Breakfast Meeting with US Employers
Rose Hall Hilton Hotel, Montego Bay, Tuesday, January 17, 2017 @ 7:30 am
I extend a warm Jamaican welcome to all this morning at this special Breakfast Meeting - particularly to our visitors “coming in from the cold”. It is always a pleasurable experience as Minister to meet with friends and partners who are essential to the success of our Overseas Employment Programmes.
Therefore, let me acknowledge and thank those “repeat” employers who have been with us for several seasons - and welcome those who are using our services for the first time.I am pleased to see the diversity represented in this room – with representatives from Virginia, North and South Carolinas, Michigan, and Colorado.
Join me in a big round of applause for all! (applause).
Ladies and gentlemen, your presence here this morning tangibly demonstrates the mutuality of the Overseas Employment Programme - or Farm Work programme as we call it locally. Our Jamaican Farm Workers provide critically-needed agricultural skills in Canada and the US, while employers, in turn, benefit from a stable supply of reliable labour to cultivate and harvest crops as dictated by weather conditions. Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, the Programme is globally regarded as one of the well administered migration-for-employment programmes – and its unique structure and operating principles make it a model for best practice.
It is for this reason that we at the Ministry remain committed to efficient management of the programme, as well as its enhancement and expansion. And growth and development will only come through your cooperation and collaboration as partnering employers.
BENEFITS TO JAMAICA
Let me point out how important the Farm Work Programme is to the Jamaican economy – and the beacon of hope it offers to Jamaican families.
- Foreign exchange remittances from abroad assist in stabilizing our foreign exchange market and increasing the levels of savings and investments in the country. Remittances help to reduce levels of poverty and increase levels of entrepreneurship.
- The programme provides a source of stable employment for Jamaicans, thereby enabling them to support families, educate their children; build homes, as well as access social amenities.
- The Programme is assisting farmers to utilize modern technology and improved farming methods, which result in long-term benefits to them, their families and their communities. And I know that many of the workers have adopted better work ethics with higher productivity levels.
So, as Minister, I thank you, our valued employers, for helping to keep the Overseas Programme alive and for partnering with us for continued growth. Without the capital you invest and the risks you take, we would not have a Programme.
WELCOMING NEW EMPLOYERS
This week (January 16-20), the Ministry will be engaged in selecting persons for the US Hospitality Sector. Last year (2016), approximately 2,300 Jamaicans were placed in the sector, compared to 1,927 in 2015. This represents a 19% increase for 20116 - or 373 additional jobs.
Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, last year’s figures reflected the highest number of workers participating in the Hospitality Programme since the impact of the 2007/2008 global recession, which reduced job opportunities in that market.
This year, projections are for the upward trend to continue as the Ministry welcomes several new employers. For example in this recruitment exercise, we have Seven (7) new employer hotels, namely:
- Country Inn Suites - seeking housekeepers (20)
- Quechee Lakes Landowners association – seeking groundsmen (8)
- Budget Host Inn– seeking housekeepers (4)
- Rachel’s Sunshine Cleaning Services - seeking housekeepers (11)
- Bramo Hospitality - seeking housekeepers (16)
- Weathercraft Roofing Company - seeking roof helpers (24)
- Osteaga Resort Hotel – seeking cooks (18)
Some of these new employers were unable to make it to Jamaica for this recruitment, and so their interviews will be conducted by the team from Florida East Coast Travel Services (FLECTS).
We welcome you all for co-operation is the foundation for growth.
FLECTS will also be conducting interviews for long-standing employers:
- Sea Island Resort
- Treetops Resort
The other long-standing partners present here today are :
- Harrah’s Hotel & Casino - from North Carolina
- Homestead Resort - out of Virginia
- Sea Pines Resort - in South Carolina
- Mission Point Resort - from Michigan
- Swingle Tree & Landscape Care Colorado
We are targeting 260 workers for placement – and I hope that you will get the best workers for your establishments.
PROMOTING JAMAICAN WORKERS
This leaves me to point out that Jamaican workers – wherever they are abroad - bring a strong sense of discipline, productivity, and a commitment to excellence in the workplace. This can be attested to by our “repeat” employers here today – and the Ministry is hoping that your personal experience will help us to promote these powerful attributes of Brand Jamaica to the world.
Through your word-of-mouth advertising to other hoteliers and hospitality institutions, help us to expand the programme for the benefit of other Jamaicans. So, as a form of guarantee, we are preparing our Jamaicans through targeted orientation to be on their best behaviour in the workplace. And not only there - but as they travel on public transportation; go out shopping or walk on the streets, in the parks, restaurants and entertainment areas. We are also urging them to observe regulations pertaining to health and safety – for their sakes, as well as for their employers.
In return, valued employers, we are relying on you to look out for the welfare of these enterprising Hospitality Workers. And please draw support from our Liaison and Consular Officers in the USA to resolve any difficulty or challenge.We know some of the challenges you face, especially in the matters of sickness and injuries on the job; workers going AWOL (absent without official leave) and wider immigration reforms. We are hoping to resolve these through dialogue and discourse.
I, for one, will welcome suggestions, initiatives and even criticisms in this meeting space towards fashioning a better, stronger Programme
In closing, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you again for gathering at such short notice. The Ministry – and, by extension, the Government – wants the Overseas Employment Programme to grow. We can achieve this goal through strengthened partnership and collaboration.
While the next few days, no doubt, will be busy ones, let me urge you to enjoy our Jamaican cuisine, attractions, music, and culture, where possible.
Thank you for your kind attention.