Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Karl Samuda, will provide a report to the House of Representatives on the findings of a recent mission to examine the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Programme (SAWP) in Canada.
A special fact-finding team visited the North American country in October last year to assess the status of Jamaicans participating in that programme.
Minister without Portfolio with Responsibility for Information, Hon. Robert Morgan, provided details during a post-Cabinet press briefing held at Jamaica House in St. Andrew on Wednesday (April 19).
“What we have found is that there were very few issues that rose to the level of what was described as a ‘slave-like’ environment, and I think a lot of the workers were a bit upset [by that characterisation],” he said.
“Not suggesting that people may not have had issues, but the whole broad brushing of the programme as a kind of oppressive engagement – that is not the reports we are getting,” he added.
Minister Morgan noted that many of the Jamaicans on the programme are engaged on farms that have reasonable accommodation.
“They were being compensated appropriately but their engagement was being caricatured as if they were involved in slavery, which is not so, and the evidence does not support that, but the Minister will be making a fulsome statement to Parliament on it,” he said.
The group comprised Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) President, Helene Davis-Whyte; Industrial Dispute Tribunal (IDT) Deputy Chairman, Danny Roberts; Caribbean Employers’ Federation (CEF) President, Wayne Chen; Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) Second Vice President, Raymond Eytle; Social Researcher, Kandre Leveridge and Ministry officers, Simone McKenzie-Mair and Sidia Madden.
Approximately 70 farms were selected for visits by members of the team over a two-week period, via a random-sampling method.
The seasonal agricultural workers programme began in 1966 and is spread across some 655 farms in 10 Canadian provinces. Approximately 10,000 Jamaicans participate in the programme.