Minister of State with responsibility for Labour, Senator Arni Walters has cautioned that challenging times lie ahead for the Canadian Farm Labour Programme.
Speaking at the annual review of the programme at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre today, he stressed that Barbados would only be able to maintain its share of that market if the employees performed well and adopted proper work attitudes and ethics.
“Some workers believe that they are going on a social tour, and would want to engage in activities which reduce their ability to work…some workers have even imported the ‘the Barbadian block culture’ into the bunkhouse with some attendant negative behavior. These activities, combined with reports of malingering on the job and disorderly conduct have a serious impact on our ability to maintain our status on this programme,” he stressed.
In addition, Senator Walters revealed that several factors have affected the number of Barbadians travelling to Canada each year.
Among these were the decline in demand for tobacco, international competition due to trade liberalisation, the increasing costs of production resulting in reduction of requests by farmers and the availability of cheaper sources of labour outside the Caribbean.
However, he remained optimistic about the future of the Farm Labour Programme, pointing out that not all was lost.
“I am optimistic that we will be able to recover some ground if we can gain more access to greenhouse work and factory ventures. Be assured that under my watch I will aggressively pursue openings in these areas,” he said.
There was also some good news for the Canadian farm labourers following last December’s Annual Review Meeting between Caribbean governments participating in the programme, representatives of the Canadian government and Travel Agents.
The hourly wage rates have been increased as of January 2009: Nova Scotia has increased from CDN $7.68 to $8.10 and will move to $8.60 in April this year; Ontario has changed from CDN $8.58 to $8.76 and will move to $9.50 in April 2009 while in Alberta the rate has increased from CDN $8.47 to $8.65.