Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
NORTH WEST St Ann Member of Parliament Dr Dayton Campbell has questioned whether the Ministry of Labour's overseas work programmes were being administered equitably.
"There seems to be a fundamental problem regarding equity in relation to the foreign work programmes," Dr Campbell charged on Wednesday during a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee.
He argued that the parish of Clarendon appeared to have benefited from an unfair advantage.
In a breakdown of the number of Jamaican workers who travelled to the United States of America (USA) during 2012 by parish, Clarendon topped the list with an exception in the area of hospitality.
Under the farm-work programme, 669 persons from Clarendon were selected while St Elizabeth had 310, St Catherine 388, Manchester 271 and other parishes recording numbers ranging from 38 to 164. A total of 2,802 workers travelled to the USA.
"... I would want to ensure that whatever opportunity is presented that those persons that I represent get a fair chance in that process as well," Dr Campbell told the committee.
However, Alvin McIntosh, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, argued that Clarendon was mainly involved in farming and that a large percentage of persons who participate were repeat workers in the programme.
Committee member Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert said the country should be advised on how farm workers were selected.
She contended that the expectations of the programme were far too high.
McIntosh told the committee that selections for the farm-work programme were last made in March 2011.
He warned against what he described as "reckless or irresponsible" statements about the programme.
He cautioned that the farm-work programme could be compromised, noting that United States authorities listened intently to comments made about the work programme.
McIntosh advised that Labour and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier would make a statement to the House of Representatives next Tuesday on the overseas work programmes.