Jamaican farm workers on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers programme in Canada have been “highly cooperative” with the team of fact-finders who are currently in the North American country.
President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), Helene Davis-Whyte, who chairs the team, told JIS News: “There’s hardly any worker who has not expressed joy, so to speak, to see us here.”
Similarly, Caribbean Employers’ Confederation President, Wayne Chen, said “They were all very cooperative and, in fact, some were quite happy to see us come by just to see how they were. They were very willing to share their stories, to show us where they live.”
The team, which overall comprises seven persons, was established by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to probe the workers’ status and prepare a report on their findings.
Three farms were visited by the Davis-Whyte/Chen part of the team today (October 12). They were located on the outskirts of the city of London and in the town of Blythe, all in the Ontario province.
On the first two farms, Jamaican workers were observed preparing tobacco, as the season for the crop draws to a close. On the third farm, the main crop was rutabaga, which is a root vegetable from the turnip family.
Some of the workers with whom JIS News interacted, said that they have been on the programme for many seasons, up to 34 years.
Jacob Blake*, who hails from St. Elizabeth, has been working on the same farm since it began operations in 1988. About the fact-finding team, he said, “I feel very good… [I] like to know what’s going on anywhere and the only way to know is to hear from the Government.”
“I appreciate it. It is so nice to see you guys,” commented Shawn Jones* of Kingston, who has been travelling on the programme for 29 years.
Newer to the programme is Chad Brown* from St. Thomas, who has been travelling to Canada for the past two years. He also expressed that he is pleased to see the team.
The study took the form of verbal questioning, and responses were recorded by the interviewers. The weather was a mildly pleasant 66 degrees, which allowed for the team to be taken around various sections of the farms, such as the fields and production areas.
All three farms that were visited today by the Davis-Whyte/Chen group are family-owned and have been utilising Jamaican workers throughout generations.
One of the owners, Shirley Baker*, said that in addition to the four members of her family who work on the farm, the nine migrant workers are all Jamaicans.
She said that although she has “never been” to the island, she is intrigued by its warm tropical climate and hopes to visit someday.
Jamaica provides the largest number of farm workers on the Canadian seasonal agricultural workers programme in the Caribbean region. Eighty to 85 per cent of the workers are request workers who farm owners call back annually.
Approximately 70 farms will be visited by the team of fact-finders, over a two-week period.