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Ministry of labour places the spotlight on seasonal agricultural workers programme

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Contact: Amanda Faye Clarke

Monday, December 7, 2009 – The Ministry of Labour, Information and Broadcasting, in association with the OECS High Commission in Canada, is hosting a three-day Annual Review Meeting of Representatives of Member States on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme this week.

The temporary workers programme allocates foreign workers to agricultural-based organisations in Canada for periods of six to eight months annually, in order to resolve labour shortages in that sector in Canada. The programme has been running for the past forty years.

Minister for Labour, Information and Broadcasting, Honourable Edmund Estephane, says the programme has afforded many Saint Lucian farmers an opportunity to raise their standard of living, and maintain their dignity in this time of economic crisis. He says the negotiations taking place this week, will provide an avenue to make the programme accessible to even more agricultural workers.

“Everyday lives have been touched by this programme. In that regard, we cannot over-emphasize our thanks and gratitude to the employers of Canada and also to the government of Canada for this great opportunity given to our people,” minister Estephane said.

President of the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), Ken Forth, says Canada’s Foreign Workers Programme with the Caribbean region is a model for the establishment of similar programmes throughout the world.

Although there are a few challenges, he says, regional government officials can applaud their efforts in sourcing avenues for their citizens to make meaningful socio-economic contributions to the development of their families and by extension their countries.

“It has been copied in Australia and other places. I spent 2 weeks in Switzerland at the ILO dealing with farm safety issues and we got talking on foreign worker programmes and they were amazed. Workmen’s compensation, social and healthcare matters do not happen in most migrant worker programmes across the world. People say, how do you afford that? And we say, this is how it is, this is how this programme works in Canada,” Mr. Forth said.

Approximately thirty-five delegates are currently on island to participate in the Canada/Caribbean Annual Review. The delegates include Labour Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Labour Commissioners from St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, Grenada, and Jamaica.

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