|From left to right: Clerical Officer for the Farm Labour Programme, Dave Best and Acting Senior Labour Officer, Valarie Quintyne, explaining to new recruits Antonio Hoyte, Alex Hinds, Sheldon Brathwaite and Antonio Chase some of the benefits Barbadians could reap by participating in the Canadian Farm Labour Programme. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??|
Barbadians going to Canada for next year’s Farm Labour Programme are set to reap significant benefits.
According to Acting Senior Labour Officer of the National Employment Bureau (NEB), Valerie Quintyne, along with gaining financially, there are social, educational and cultural benefits which persons taking part in the programme can receive.
She outlined that workers were paid above the Canadian minimum wage and explained that contracts ranged from six weeks to eight months in length, and persons could work with either fruits, vegetables or ginseng; work in a green house or food processing plant.
Moreover, she pointed out that there was a Home Saving component of the Farm Labour Programme, where 25 per cent of the worker’s salary was deducted.?? Five per cent of that amount would be sent to the liaison office in Canada for incidentals and the management of the programme, while the remaining 20 per cent would be sent home as savings for the worker, she stated.
Ms. Quintyne said that after the mandatory deductions were made, workers would be able to retrieve their earnings when they return home.?? She described this Home Saving component as "a God send" especially for those persons who found it difficult to secure employment on return to the island.??
"This work to Canada is seasonal.?? When persons return, sometimes they have difficulty getting back into the work industry in Barbados.?? [For] some of them, their jobs would not have been held open, or they would not have had the permanent jobs to begin with.???? We [NEB] target a lot of unemployed persons, [so] the Home Savings can take them over until they get back on their feet in Barbados," she noted.
In addition, Ms. Quintyne remarked that participants also developed new skills along with enhancing those they already possessed.???? For example, she noted that the techniques used by Canadian farmers differed from those in Barbados, and workers over the years have benefited from that transfer of knowledge.??
Ms. Quintyne went on to explain that Barbados signed onto the programme in 1967, as one of the supply countries.?? She added that Jamaica, Mexico and several Eastern Caribbean islands also sent a steady supply of workers to partake in the Canadian Farm Labour Programme annually.
The Senior Labour Official noted that initially the programme attracted largely farm workers.?? However, with the decline of agriculture in Barbados, the NEB was now attracting labourers and construction workers.
Ms. Quintyne lauded the Barbadian workers and said: "I can proudly say that the Canadian Farm Labour Programme has had an association with Barbados as a supply country since 1967, and the fact that it has gone on that long is testimony to the fact that the Barbadian workers must be doing something right.?? Employers like the Barbadian work ethic and as a result, many Barbadians have been placed in supervisory and managerial positions on the farms."??
Meanwhile, outlining other advantages of the scheme, Clerical Officer for the Farm Labour Programme, Dave Best, said, over the years, he had seen men improve their livelihoods and their families by participating in the Programme.??
Mr. Best remarked, "I know of men who have bought land, built houses and started small businesses.?? One guy, from two years ago, came back and bought a van to transport his vegetables.?? Also, there are guys who bought vans to sell bread.?? Many of the men send back barrels and money to their families."
He pointed out that many workers benefited from a duty free waiver at the end of their contract and under this arrangement, they could send home electronics, tools, appliances, food and clothing.?????? Workers are also given a Canadian Pension.
"Once you go on the Farm Labour Programme and you finish your contract and come back to Barbados, there is a waiver [workers can get] from the NEB to take to the Port to get $500 duty free off your stuff," Mr. Best said.
Over the past 44 years, Barbados has sent both males and females to work in the Canadian Farm Labour Programme.?? While the country has been known to send 1000 workers annually to Canada, this figure has declined to 169 in 2011.??
According to the NEB in addition to the lack of interest in agriculture among Barbadians, the decline is largely as a result of the economic recession and closure of some farms in Canada.