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Examining the Jamaican approach to the Canadian Farm Labour Programme, would help Barbados to find ways to improve its competitiveness and increase job opportunities through the Canadian Overseas Employment Programme.
This observation has come from Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, following the Inter-governmental Review Meeting of the Canada-Commonwealth Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), held in Canada recently.?? While there, CARICOM ministers and government officials also met to discuss issues pertinent to increasing employment opportunities for the various islands participating in the programme.??
Disclosing that the Ministry of Labour was seeking to expand employment opportunities available to Barbadians through the Canada Overseas Employment Programme, Dr. Byer Suckoo said that the challenge her Ministry faced in accomplishing this was that of limited administrative manpower on the ground in Canada.??
The Labour Minister revealed that Barbados only had two liaison officers who served and facilitated the hundreds of Barbadians who participate in the entire programme.??
"There are more opportunities in Canada.?? Right now, we are at the tip of the iceberg… There are areas in fishery, dairy, beef, and cannery [while] out west, there are new industries that are booming in oil… lots of jobs are available.?? But the truth is, as I examine the liaison officers’ workload, it is a lot for two people to do.?? They can only get out there periodically, but not enough to make a dent," she lamented.
Dr. Byer Suckoo acknowledged that while the liaison officers were working on penetrating those employment opportunities, their efforts were hampered by their workload and the vast size of their jurisdiction.
It is hard for them to do the administrative [and financial] work for a couple hundred people… They meet workers at the airport, ensure everything is in place, assist with recruiting, and while workers are up there and you have a problem, you call your liaison officer and let them try to liaise between you and the employer.?? And, we are also asking them to help us find new jobs.?? It’s difficult, Canada is not Barbados," the Labour Minister emphasised.
Stressing that her Ministry was working on rectifying this, Dr. Byer Suckoo added that they were examining the approach the Jamaicans took to the Farm Labour Programme.?? "That country has the largest contingent of workers in the programme, with numbers of over 4 000 persons employed, while some Eastern Caribbean countries only have one worker".??
She said that Jamaica had a support service organisation based in Canada, which not only facilitated workers’ needs, but also aggressively pursued new areas of employment.??
She stated that securing more job contracts meant that Barbados’ liaison officers needed to build rapport with potential employers and there was ??call for them to dedicate more time to the endeavour.
The Labour Minister pointed out that Jamaica had offered to assist Barbados in efforts to enhance the over.?? "We are planning to explore how we can have somebody from the Jamaican team sit with our National Employment Bureau and show them what they (Jamaica) do differently, adding that the behind the scenes work took place in both Barbados and Canada.
She emphasised that the Ministry was seeking to expand the support team, adding that they have considered hiring Barbadians who live in Canada to fill the positions when those jobs become available.?? Stating that to relocate Barbadians from Barbados to Canada would be an expensive undertaking, the Minister remarked that "while we want the jobs, we have to be careful, as there is only so much that we can invest."