Govt fights for farm workers programme

Government has vowed to fight to ensure that Canada keeps its Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme –– commonly referred to as the Canadian Farm Labour Programme –– which employs dozens of Barbadians agricultural workers annually to meet the short-term demand for manual labour during the peak planting and harvesting seasons.

In a meeting today with scores of farm workers, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo did not reveal if she feared that the programme was in danger of folding.

However, Dr Byer-Suckoo made reference to the collapse last year of a similar programme for persons in the hospitality sector after Canada suspended work permits and employment confirmation for hospitality and other workers in the Canadian Temporary Foreign Workers’ Programme. And she gave the assurance that the Freundel Stuart administration would not “sit back” and allow this programme to die.

Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo
Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo

“The programme has been an important for you, for your families and for the Government of Barbados as well. It has been a successful programme and we made that point to the Government of Canada. We are not going to sit back and watch them shut down the programme but we will fight, we will continue to meet with them to discuss to ensure that this programme is viable,” the minister said.

At today’s meeting Dr Byer-Suckoo, who also has responsibility for human resource development and social security, alerted the farm workers to changes to Canadian law which will impact the way their wages are managed.

Barbados has had an arrangement with the Canadian employers  to deduct a 25 per cent remittance from the farm workers’ wages and have it paid to Barbados’ liaison office in Canada. From this deduction, five per cent is taken to pay the administrative costs of the programme and the remainder is transferred to the Ministry of Labour here. According to the Ministry of Labour, a further $16.10 for every $100 earned per week is then deducted for social security and the rest is paid to the worker upon return to Barbados as home savings.

However, effective January 1, 2016 it will be illegal under Canadian law for employers to make these deductions.

“Other persons and other governments have been making deductions from workers money that was not necessarily used for the workers benefit and this is not in keeping with the best labour standards.  This is not in keeping with the ILO [International Labour Organization] standards and now it is not in keeping with the Canadian laws. The Canadian officials ensure that their law is now in keeping with the ILO standards. So it is now illegal for employers to take out any money from your salary,” the minister explained.  

8 Responses to Govt fights for farm workers programme

  1. Maureen Smith December 19, 2015 at 11:53 am

    The energy used by Barbados’ Ministry of Labour to fight Canada over the possible ending of that country’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme may be best used towards the development of ‘at home’ farms. The same seasonal workers who travel to Canada could be trained/supported to grow crops etc. for export. Exporting home grown products would then generate income for Barbados, that in turn would go towards boosting the island’s economy. Canada would then be at liberty to do as it pleases insofar as its SAWP is concerned, as Barbados would not be dependent on the programme. What a wonderful 50th year of independence gift in 2016 that would be for Barbados and its citizens!

    • Donild Trimp December 19, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Maureen Smith, which country are they going to export these so called home grown crops to?

      Waiting patiently for your reply.

  2. e. jerome davis December 20, 2015 at 10:08 am

    What was not said here is that the Barbados office in Canadian is funded in part by a deduction from the 25%, If this is stops the office will be a financial burden on the Government. In fact, it already has become a burden with the decline in numbers.

  3. jrsmith December 20, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Seems as though , nothing which needs ,professional management , in Barbados , has a chance to survive, we are so educated , not any way towards real professional business management.

  4. sunshinecanada December 20, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    well said Maureen, wonderful, i was thinking the same thing,

  5. Maureen Smith December 21, 2015 at 11:08 am

    @Donald Trimp – not ‘country’ but ‘countries’. Exporting can commence with the 15 CARICOM nations who between them have around 6M potential buyers. Patenting of certain products would ensure that B’dos is able to keep competitors at bay, as the Scots have done with their whisky. This could have been done with the island’s black bellied sheep, for example, but if my research is correct, the horse (not sheep – smile) has already bolted there.

    @sunshinecanada – great minds think alike!

  6. sunshinecanada December 21, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Trump don’
    t have a name anymore, just too shame to STEPOUT, he want them to put him out.

  7. Tony Waterman December 22, 2015 at 4:36 am

    @Maureen Smith!!!! it seems to me that Donild Trimp has not yet heard of SELF SUFFICIENCY, they can make Barbados that, and then any surplus can be sold to the other islands of Caricom, which would help them also to lower their import Food bill.
    i wrote about the new Laws in Canada about a year or more ago when the Import workers scandal broke in British Columbia, but one seem to have been listening, One of the problems with Farming in Canada is that one of the biggest Crops especially in Ontaruo. Tobacco is not being cultivated in plenty like it us to be (Health Concerns) and weather (Drought) is playing havoc with the food farms.
    Any monies that will be spent trying to fight a LOSING battle with decisions that Cant/Wont be changed for our sake, would be better spent putting some of that Acreage that is under River tamirind(Tambrin) cultivation, back into FOOD Cultivation, that will employ all those who come to Canada on that program, and put Barbados in a better position foodwise.


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