Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan (background) with workers on an Ontario farm. Front- from left – Former Permanent Secretary Alyson Forte; Consul Liaison Service Officer, Ken Mason and Consul General, Toronto Office, Sonia Marville-Carter (glasses on forehead). (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Labour)

Over 170 Barbadians were employed last year under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Programme (SAWP) in Canada, and two new employers joined the programme, helping to augment the previous year’s figures. Barbados is currently working with 31 Canadian employers.

This was revealed by newly-appointed Consul, Liaison Services in the Barbados Liaison Service (BLS) in Canada, Ken Mason. 

He was speaking at the Local Annual Review Meeting of the Canadian Workers’ Programme, which was facilitated, last month, by the Barbados Employment Career & Counselling Services (BECCS), a department under the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations.

In a report presented at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Mr. Mason said: “The year started out with an addition of two new employers, Barrie Hill Farms and Vamos Investment Ltd. This resulted in 15 new workers being employed under the programme.  The other workers started arriving in February, and the final group of 17 arrived in September, which brought the total number of workers being employed under SAWP to 178.” 

He pointed out that compared to other Caribbean countries, the number of Barbadian workers employed in Canada tended to be dismal. 

However, Mr. Mason added that it was the BLS’ intention to increase the figures by at least 30 per cent, and for the ensuing year it would be embarking on “aggressive marketing and awareness strategies with the hope of reaching our goals”. 

The Liaison Officer further stated that this would be accomplished through telephone contact, letters, emails and visits to existing and new employers in Canada.

He noted that the BLS would undertake research and expand its scope of employment opportunities in areas such as construction, racing grooms, sewing machine operators and electronic assemblers.

Minister of Labour, Colin Jordan and Consul General, Toronto Office, Sonia Marville-Carter, test their tobacco sorting skills with workers on an Ontario farm. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Labour)

The report, which relates to the period January 1 to December 31, 2019, provided a summary of the operations of the BLS in Canada.  The BLS is responsible for the foreign worker programmes in that country.

Mr. Mason said the recruits reported “good experiences and were eagerly awaiting requests from their employers to return”.  Adding that favourable and encouraging reports were also received from employers, he stressed that the BLS would continue to encourage the workers to give of their best. 

He also reminded them that they should inspect their Canadian Work Permits for errors before leaving the airport; keep all important documents in the envelope provided to them by BECCS; reserve some of their earnings for programme-related expenses in Barbados; and obtain their Police Certificate of Character immediately upon return to Barbados and a prepaid credit or Visa debit card from their banks or credit unions.

Mr. Mason said they were also encouraged to stay physically fit, as health and wellness were key pillars to workers’ success on these programmes.

He also admonished them to pay special attention to the laws and practices of Canada, and that they should practise conflict resolution, adding “with good conflict resolution, we have less problems in the programme”. 

The Liaison Officer also spoke about the Temporary Foreign Workers’ (Hotel) Programme, which was restarted prior to January 2019. 

In addition to 30 workers already employed at Blue Mountain Resort, he said several more were requested, and agents should soon be recruiting others to join the current employees in Canada.

Another hotel, JW Marriott, had applied for a Labour Market Impact Assessment for 43 workers, and of these applications, 20 were approved by the Canadian government.  These workers arrived in Canada on June 1, 2019, on one-year contracts.

(Stock Photo)

While divulging that other resorts had been approached by the BLS, Mr. Mason said negotiations were held with Deerhurst Resort, which resulted in at least 15 new workers joining the programme for 2020.  Taboo Muskoka Resort was also expected to come on board during the year.

The Liaison Officer added that visits by Minister Jordan and his officials in October and November 2019 to farms and other employers, and their engagements with employers and workers, have started to prove successful.

He disclosed that the contractual issues raised and the amendments examined during the November visit would now be contained in new contracts for each SAWP worker in 2020.

Addressing the effectiveness of the BLS’ attendance at two trade shows in 2019, one in Kelowna, British Columbia, and the other in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Mr. Mason said his team had met with prospective employers, who discussed the possibilities of “getting some new workers on to the programme”.

“The response was quite favourable, and now requires follow-up from the Barbados Liaison Service to bring our efforts to fruition,”

Since Barbados signed on to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Programme Agreement with Canada in 1967, thousands of workers have taken up the opportunity to work in Canada.  Both countries recognize the benefits of the programme and have resolved to work to maximize these benefits.

Barbados intends to work hard to realize an increase in the number of employment opportunities available to workers and any other accessible foreign worker programme.

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