Sat | Jan 23, 2021

St Lucia gov’t concerned about farmer workers in Canada ‘running off’

Published:Wednesday | November 25, 2020 | 9:45 AM
Farm workers in Canada - CMC photo.

CASTRIES, St Lucia, CMC - The St Lucia government has expressed concern over reports of truancy among local farm workers in Canada, warning that the actions of a few could put the programme in jeopardy.

“Hired seasonal farm workers in Canada are going absent without leave (AWOL), raising concern that their actions could affect the programme and opportunities for those coming behind,” says Labour Minister, Stephenson King.

“We have a lot of work to do particularly in relation to the behaviour of our St Lucian men,” King told reporters, noting that local workers going AWOL did not represent a good sign for the country.

“It really taints us as a country when persons commit to participating in a programme and then go AWOL.

“It reflects on the country and in some instances when this happens, employers resort to other countries – so we have to work on that in terms of persons trying to adhere to the protocols,” King said, adding that during the years 2016 to 2018, there were no reports of St Lucians absconding.

However, King said this has been happening in the last two years.

“It probably means we will have to be a lot more vigilant in selecting persons we need,” he said, adding that the farm workers programme is being reviewed this week and the possibility of women being hired is on the table.

“Yesterday at the review meeting we were discussing with the Canadians some greater opportunities in terms of the potential for workers to be able to apply for residency after a number of years,” King said.

He said this year, St Lucians have been able to enter farms on Prince Edward Islands and British Columbia.

At the local level, the labour minister said a number of measures have been put in place to allow the workers who return to St Lucia after a period of time to be able to bring in their vehicles, their equipment, and other supplies duty-free.

“So, it’s a programme where there are opportunities, but we need people who are well behaved,” King asserted.

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