Barbados is working assiduously to ensure 18 of its nationals on a government-facilitated workers’ programme in Canada’s hotel sector can return home by the May 31 deadline of their contracts.
Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, gave this assurance today as he spoke with the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) to clarify news reports carried late last month in some sections of the local media.
The reports alluded to concerns said to be expressed by workers about their well-being, legal status and living arrangements, given that their contracts are set to expire.
They also stated that the workers had indicated no clear information was being given by the liaison officer or from the Barbados Government about travel or work arrangements.
Minister Jordan, in addressing the issues, said he had been in conversation with some of the workers who reached out to him, and emphasized that they were comfortable that their future was being attended to by the Barbados Liaison Office in Canada.
He said: “I spoke to some of them and they told me that the liaison service has been professional and has been in constant contact with them, keeping them informed about several matters, including flight information.”
While expressing his thanks to the management of JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa in Ontario, where the 18 have been since June, 2019, the Minister noted that the Liaison Office headed by Consul Liaison Service Officer, Ken Mason, had assured him they were “on top of the issues”, and all were being addressed.
Speaking to the status of the now unemployed workers, he said: “We acknowledge that the contracts will expire at month-end and we are in ongoing discussions with the airline and with JW Marriott …. The Government of Barbados looks forward to continuing the relationship that we have built with the four-star resort in Ontario.”
The Labour Minister further explained that, before the state of emergency was declared in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the workers’ welfare “had always been paramount” and the group had been properly looked after through the Liaison Office, which has been working closely with the Consul General in Toronto, Sonia Marville-Carter, and the Barbados High Commissioner to Canada, Reginald Farley.
“This will continue right up until their safe arrival on Barbadian soil,” he stressed.
Mr. Jordan also expressed gratitude to Canada for ensuring the safety and well-being of all Barbadian citizens during the ongoing state of emergency.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mason, speaking from Canada, revealed that they were working on getting the 18 on a flight scheduled for May 16.
Stating that it was the next scheduled one they were aware of, he added: “But we don’t know if there will be an increase in the frequency of the flights.
Currently, the airline is taking cargo southbound to Barbados and returning northbound with Canadians and farm workers… but as far as the Liaison Office is concerned, we are on top of it.”
The Consul Liaison Service Officer further acknowledged that the JW Marriott resort had been satisfied with the work of the Barbadians, and this could result in an extension for the more skilled workers among them, like the four cooks in the group.
He stated: “The Human Resources Director, Lori Moffatt, has given us the assurance that once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, Barbados would be the first place from where workers would come. She said they were very impressed with the workers, and this has even been echoed by the workers themselves.”
The resort also came in for praise from Mr. Mason for what he called “a kind gesture” to the workers. Explaining that the 18 who were housed near the resort were now living rent free, he said: “Whereas some workers elsewhere are getting unemployment benefits, but still have to pay rent, Barbadian workers are getting the unemployment benefit and the hotel has waived the cost of housing for the duration of the unemployment, right down to the end of May.”