Leave the money alone

ILOGovernment’s treatment of monies earned by Barbadians working on the Canadian Farm Labour Programme has become an international labour issue.

Barbados TODAY discovered that while attention is currently focussed on the controversy involving the composition of the Barbados trade union delegation to the International Labour Organisation annual conference in June, an ILO panel of legal experts mandated to monitor how countries adhere to labour conventions they are signatory to has published a report criticising the island’s compliance with 16 labour conventions.

And among the chief concerns was a longstanding complaint that Government is requiring Canadian Farm Labour Programme participants to remit a quarter of their earnings back home, and in particular the five per cent charged for administrative costs. In light of these concerns it said was first communicated to it in June 19, 2008 communication from the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations is urging Government to take a series of actions to resolve concerns.

“The committee urges the Government … to undertake a review of the Farm Labour Programme between Barbados and Canada, in cooperation with the workers’ and employers’ organisations; to explain the reasons for requiring migrant workers under the programme to remit 25 per cent to the Government, including five per cent for administrative costs,” the panel urged.

It also wanted authorities here to “ensure that purely administrative costs of recruitment, introduction and placement are not borne by the workers recruited under the programme, and that migrants for employment are permitted to transfer their earnings or such part of their earnings and savings as they desire”.

“The committee is raising other points in a request addressed directly to the Government. The committee hopes that the Government will make every effort to take the necessary action in the near future,” the ILO report said

The committee noted that once a country ratified an ILO convention it was obliged to report regularly on measures it had taken to implement it, but it said that in the case of the Migration for Employment Convention as it related to the Bajans working on Canadian farms government had not replied to the concerns raised by CTUSAB.

“The committee notes that the Government has not replied to the comments from the CTUSAB. The committee recalls that under Article 9 of the convention, ratifying states undertake to permit the transfer of such part of the earnings and savings of the migrant for employment as the migrant may desire,” the body noted.

“Requiring migrant workers to remit 25 per cent of their earnings to the Government would, in the view of the committee, be contrary to the spirit of Article 9 of the convention. Moreover, the committee recalls that Article 7(2) of the convention provides that services rendered by public employment services in connection with the recruitment, introduction and placing of migrants for employment are to be provided free of charge.

“The committee draws the attention of the Government to the fact that charging workers for purely administrative costs of recruitment, introduction and placement is prohibited under the Convention (General Survey of 1999 on migrant workers, paragraph 170),” it added.

Another convention the ILO group wanted Barbados to increase its reporting on was the Employment Policy Convention, including the island’s implementation of an active employment policy, something it said government previously indicated was constrained by the economic recession.

“The committee invites the Government to provide in its next report information on the impact of the active measures taken for promoting employment, including in the framework of the National Employment Policy, on reducing unemployment and underemployment and increasing employment levels within the framework of a coordinated economic and social policy,” the panel stated.

“The committee also requests the Government to provide detailed information on the impact of the measures taken to address the needs of vulnerable categories of workers, such as women, young people, older workers and workers with disabilities.” (SC)

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