Be good ambassadors, Robinson tells farm workers
Labour and Social Security Minister Shahine Robinson has charged the latest group of seasonal farm workers heading to Canada to be good ambassadors for Jamaica, imploring them to conduct themselves in an acceptable manner on and off the job.
Robinson was speaking yesterday during a ceremony for the second batch of farm workers to be dispatched to Canada to take up employment opportunities under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) since the start of the year.
The ceremony for the 80 men, the majority of whom will be deployed to Ontario and Nova Scotia, took place at the ministry's Overseas Employment Services Centre along East Street in central Kingston.
"Be your brother's keeper and be sure to perform your duties to the best of your ability, bearing in mind the importance of productivity and accountability," Robinson charged.
"Work hard, distinguish yourself, ensure that you comply with the terms of your contract, and make your family and your country proud. This will ensure that your employer continues to request not only your services, but that of other Jamaican workers," the labour minister added.
Robinson further advised the workers to observe all safety regulations, underscoring that it was critical not only for their individual welfare, but also that of their co-workers.
"If, however, you receive an injury, no matter how simple it may seem, please report it to your employers and to your liaison officer. The liaison service is available to you 24 hours of the day, seven days of the week. It is there to secure your welfare," the labour minister advised. "Do not be afraid to reach out to your liaison officer if you're experiencing a challenging situation, and sometimes that will happen," she added.
High Commissioner of Canada to Jamaica Laurie Peters underscored that the SAWP gave enormous assistance to Canadian farmers and also contributed to the economies of both countries.
"It was mentioned that there are 9,000 lives that are impacted, but I would say that its 9,000 families and 9,000 communities that benefit from your hard work on our hard-working Canadian farms," she contended.
"I understand that this is such a strong programme, in part, because 18 per cent of you are returned workers to Canada. But we're also extremely excited about that 20 per cent who are first-timers on the programme. We hope that this will be a long and strong tradition for you and your families as well," added Peters.
'Farm work programme made me a man'
Longtime farmer and St Ann resident Timothy Thomas told The Gleaner that the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme in Canada was what made him a man.
The father of five stated that he has been a part of the programme since 1995.
"I build my house, I buy a little van, and I send all five of my children to school. I've been doing it for over 20 years. Sometimes I leave for three months, other times for five months, but last year, I left for the longest, which was eight months. It has changed my life for the better, and I recommend it to others who may be struggling to make ends meet," he told The Gleaner on Friday before being bussed from the Ministry of Labour's East Street office to the airport en route to Canada.
Twenty-four-year-old Elroy Edmond, a newcomer who hails from Long Bay in Portland, said that he wanted to make a good impression on his first trip in addition to gaining valuable experiences and more savings.
"I already have goats, pigs, and some chickens. So I was thinking that when I return with some money, I would probably get some cows because I want my own roof over my head. I have high hopes for the programme, and I'm going for it," he reasoned.