Jamaica Information Service – Close to 300 Jamaicans will be taking up employment opportunities in Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP).
The workers, 87 per cent of whom are returnees, will be deployed mainly to farms in Ontario. They began departing the island on Thursday (January 3).
At a send-off ceremony held at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Overseas Employment Services Centre in downtown Kingston on January 3, Portfolio Minister, Shahine Robinson, encouraged the workers to be good ambassadors by carrying out their duties diligently and conducting themselves appropriately at all times.
“Maintain a professional attitude… both on and off the job. Be your brother’s keeper, listen to the instructions of your employers and try to work to the best of your ability,” she told them.
She advised the workers to observe all the safety procedures and regulations that have been implemented and “if something goes awry and you are hurt, report it immediately to your employer, so that it can be addressed and also to your liaison officer”.
Mrs. Robinson urged those who will be going on the programme for the first time to “carry on the proud tradition of the many hard-working and dedicated Jamaicans who went before and paved the way for you”.
She further implored them to keep in contact with their families, especially their children.
“It is important for them to know that even though you are not physically present, you are still there with them and you are still there for them. Social workers from the Family Services Department of the Ministry will also periodically contact your family to ensure that they are doing well in your absence,” she said.
SAWP is part of the Ministry’s Overseas Employment Programme and involves contractual agricultural workers, who are recruited to meet the short-term demand for manual labour during planting and harvesting seasons.
They are employed in greenhouse crop production, vegetable farming and fruit tree cultivation.
Mrs. Robinson hailed SAWP as a symbol of the long-standing tradition of partnership and cooperation between Jamaica and Canada since 1966 and as positively impacting the lives of many Jamaicans, who have used the opportunity to improve their standard of living and that of their families.
High Commissioner of Canada to Jamaica, Laurie Peters, in her remarks said SAWP has been a success for both countries.
She noted that while the programme has been expanded to other countries in the Caribbean and Mexico, 85 per cent of workers from the Caribbean are from Jamaica.
She informed that changes have been made to the biometric requirements of the programme.
“The fingerprints and photographs that were collected from workers, as well as visitors and students, since 2013, are now valid for 10 years, which means that returning workers no longer need to give them year after year with each new application. This means that only 20 per cent of new participants have had to give their fingerprints,” she said.
A group of 100 workers departed the island at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, and another cohort of 110 workers will depart later in the day. The final group of 86 will leave the island on Friday (January 4).