Trouble brews in Canada/Jamaica driver employment programme
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Local officials are still trying to gather information more than two weeks after it was revealed that a company which has partnered with the Government to find employment opportunities for Jamaicans in Canada is under investigation.
The entity which has had good success in getting driving jobs for Jamaican truck and trailers drivers in Canada is now under investigation for possible breaches of that country's labour laws.
It is being alleged that participants in the programme were required to pay up to C$750 dollars for training, which includes driver assessment and logbook courses, and this could be illegal.
However, Professor Michael Patterson - the man at the centre of the controversy - has denied any wrongdoing.
Patterson told The Sunday Gleaner that the investigation is the result of a smear campaign that has been launched by a competitor.
A report published by the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail on February 14 revealed that the "British Columbia (BC) and Alberta governments are investigating companies related to a Kelowna-based businessman who has championed connections between Jamaica and Canada".
"BC's Employment Standards Branch confirmed this week it has an 'active investigation' under way in relation to Hire Pro Drivers, a BC company run by Michael Patterson that links Canadian employers to truck drivers from other countries, including Jamaica," read a section of The Globe and Mail article.
The article, written by Wendy Stueck, also claimed that the government of Alberta was investigating a complaint against Patterson and another company he operates, Marmicmon, over allegations that it sought a fee in exchange for job-placement services.
The article made it clear that under labour regulations in both provinces, it is illegal to charge workers in exchange for jobs.
Patterson denied the allegations. "That is flat out not true," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
Alvin McIntosh, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, initially declined to comment on the matter.
When our news team caught up with him in the parking lot of the ministry's North Street offices, he said that he would have to do some checks before he could respond.
"I will have to access the report and ascertain what's happening," McIntosh told our news team.
However, Patterson told our news team that a copy of a letter addressing the developments was copied to the Labour Ministry but he could not say if the permanent secretary received the letter.
Efforts to get a comment from BC's Employment and Standards Branch were unsuccessful.
When contacted, Stefan Baranski, communications director in the office of Alberta's Premier, Alison Redford, promised to provide additional information but he did not respond by press time.
Patterson also pledged to provide a fulsome response to The Sunday Gleaner but that did not arrive.
This is not the first time that one of Patterson's companies has been questioned about its operation in Jamaica.
Marmicmon was the entity responsible for soliciting potential employers in Canada, who offered jobs to the students who successfully completed the practical nurse-training programmes.
That programme was fraught with problems and was eventually suspended by the then Jamaica Labour Party government in 2011.
Students complained about the programme not delivering on several promises that were made as many of them received no job offers or diplomas.
One local school even falsely asserted that the programme was a joint initiative between the governments of Jamaica and Canada.
In January, the labour and social security ministry announced that it was seeking experienced truck drivers to take up jobs in Canada.
Charlene Dennis, administrator of the Canadian skill programme in the electronic labour exchange unit of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, told our news team that more than 60 drivers have received jobs in Canada under the joint programme with Hire Pro Drivers.