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OECS Commission Facilitates Travel and Employment in Canada for 180 Nationals

Ongoing travel restrictions as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic have created challenges the world over. The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) is no exception, suffering significant setbacks since farmers have been unable to travel. 

Cognisant of the economic implications of a contracted programme and wary of the health risks of travelling, the OECS Commission – through its Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS) – worked closely with the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), CanAg Travel Services, the Government of Canada and Sunwing Airlines to facilitate the safe passage of 180 OECS nationals to Canada, via a chartered flight, on Tuesday, 12 May 2020.

Stringent COVID-19 ‘Health and Safety’ protocols were established prior to the departure of the workers. These protocols were implemented locally, by the respective Ministry of Labour, with support from the Ministry of Health and the Police force; and in Canada by the ECLS, in collaboration with Canadian authorities.

The key Health and Safety protocols were as follows:

Covid-19 testing prior to departure so that test results can be presented on arrival in Canada;

Workers provided with travel kits containing face masks, disposable gloves and hand sanitisers;

Workers to be quarantined for 14 days on arrival in Canada – with full pay;

Additional supplementary insurance to cover workers for all eventualities, including with COVID-19;

Farm accommodations have been sanitised under the supervision of Canadian Health authorities and the ECLS; and

Each farm has an appointed worker representative and is part of a WhatsApp group with the ECLS team in Canada with 24-hour hotline support.

The OECS Commission via the ECLS, ensured that all 180 workers were welcomed and assisted on arrival in Canada, by the Head, ECLS, Mr Olaf Fontenelle and the ECLS team – who will ensure the wellbeing of all OECS farm workers while employed in Canada.

Image of Dr Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS
Dr Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS

OECS Director General, Dr Didacus Jules, commended all parties involved on the success of this initial charter flight stating, “Healthy multilateral collaboration between the OECS Commission, the Government of Canada and the Governments of participating OECS Member States made it possible for these seasonal agricultural workers to benefit from their annual contracts, at a time when OECS economies are most vulnerable and sustaining employment is essential.”

“On behalf of the OECS Commission, I wish to thank the Canadian High Commission in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), Global Affairs Canada and the Temporary Foreign Worker Directorate of the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, for the valuable support provided to transition to work these 180 OECS workers on this initial charter flight – amid COVID-19. I also express gratitude to our Member States, recognising cooperation with Ministries of Labour, for diligently adhering to the stringent health and safety measures put in place for the wellbeing of all.”

“Finally, I also wish to thank OECS farm workers for their continued commitment to the programme and their contribution to our economies.”

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