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Labour ministry accused of misleading constituents about farm work programme

Published:Wednesday | June 14, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Roberts Risden
Dalrymple Phillibert

Some members of parliament (MPs) have alleged that key persons in the labour and social security ministry are deliberately misleading members of the public that political representatives could be blocking their efforts to get on the farm work programme.

The legislators levelled the accusation on Wednesday as permanent secretary in the ministry Collette Roberts Risden and a team appeared before Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee for the second straight week.

The MPs contended that the misinformation coming from the officials at the ministry gives constituents the impression that they are insensitive and are preventing them from participating in the farm work programme involving Canada and the United States.

"Up to yesterday, I got a WhatsApp [message] from a constituent who went to the Ministry of Labour's Mandeville office seeking farm work," said Mikael Phillips, the representative for Manchester North Western. "She said they sent her back to her MP, and she wants to know when she can come and see me to get one of the farm work tickets."

"It cannot be where they are sent back to the MP when there's no programme or any call for farm workers at this point, and it makes it seem as if we are keeping this away from our constituents," said Phillips.

Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, the MP for Trelawny Southern, believes that people in the labour ministry are deliberately misleading the public.




According to Dalrymple Philibert, several of her constituents allegedly also got instructions from ministry officials to get letters from her supporting their farm work application.

"I'm saying something now, and I'm tired of saying it. I said I cannot write the letter because the letter is just a waste of your bus fare. I don't have any influence to give you the card," said Dalrymple.

"Within the ministry, there are persons who are at strategic desks telling this to people. It cannot be that people from every constituency are hearing the same thing. There are persons there who, for whatever reason, have some influence and they are telling the [people to go to the MP]."

... Large pool of farm workers

Collette Roberts Risden, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, did not respond to the accusations that persons within the ministry were giving out misinformation about the farm work programme but noted that prior to this year's recruitment exercise, members of parliament were last given forms to give to constituents in 2015.

She explained to the Public Administration and Appropri-ations Committee in Parliament (PAAC) on Wednesday that the recruitment back then resulted in a large pool of 3,000 from which to choose when opportunities arose.

"It made no sense to add to that pool. We [would] be adding more and more people with an expectation to be called. That pool is not totally depleted, but it has been reduced significantly," said Roberts Risden.

It is why the ministry has set a pre-selection exercise for the Canadian and the United States farm work programme for June 26 to July 24.

PAAC chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill said that the ministry needs to tighten its communication and reduce distrust in the system.