A delegation comprising the Minister responsible for Labour, Stephenson King, Labour Commissioner, Ray Narcisse and Labour Consultant in the Department of Labour, Winhall Joshua represented St. Lucia in the Annual Review Meeting of the Canada/Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Programme (SAWP).
The meeting was convened in Jamaica from November 14–18 and marked the 50th year since the governments of Canada and the Caribbean have embarked on such a programme whereby Caribbean workers are provided with seasonal employment on Canadian farms for periods ranging between 4 and 8 months every year.
Principally, the aim of such annual review meetings is to bring owners of Canadian farms together with Caribbean government officials, officials of the Canadian High Commission as well as representatives of the Government of Canada into one forum for the purpose of deliberating on all issues relating to the programme so as to ensure its continuity and improvement.
Such a forum also affords Caribbean officials the opportunity to engage Canadian employers directly in an effort to increase the number of Caribbean nationals recruited and improve on the service delivery of workers on those farms.
Two key matters arising from the meeting were proposed amendments to the agreements for employment in Canada and the issue of a nominal deduction from workers’ wages for the purpose of administering the programme and defraying some costs relating to the workers’ recruitment.
Also, Minister King profited the opportunity to hold discussions with employers from British Columbia and Quebec and offered the services of St. Lucians as farmers from those provinces had few St. Lucian workers. Those discussions were fruitful since the employers gave the undertaking of working to recruit more St. Lucians through our liaison service in Canada. As a result of a recent trip to Quebec by that same delegation from St. Lucia, a number of farmers from that province have already confirmed their intention to recruit St. Lucian workers in the coming year.
The relationships forged between the Minister and some farmers at the review meeting in Jamaica underscored the importance of our annual attendance as well as a need for frequent communication with Canadian farmers between meetings.
In 2015, 231 St. Lucians were recruited for work on Canadian farms and earned a combined gross income of CAN$4,276,517 or EC$ 8,553,034. This is an indication of the economic contribution of this programme.