Labour ministry officials to meet with axed farm workers

LABOUR ministry officials have heeded a call by five of the six Jamaican men for a meeting to put on the table their concerns over their shock dismissal by a Canadian farm owner after they, in June, went public about their sub-par living and working conditions, triggering an intense probe at the Ontario location.

The men, who had stayed off the job for a day in protest after their living quarters were flooded with wastewater, landed in Jamaica on Tuesday, August 7, a day after the island ended its Independence celebrations.

A representative of the group, speaking with the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday evening, alleged that the abrupt dismissal was “payback” for them blowing the whistle in June. According to him, the news of their departure was given to them while they were in the field on Friday, August 4.

“About 10 o’clock we see the man [supervisor] with the paper [with the names of those to be sent home]. Someone told me that the boss was told that is me send off the video, but they [supervisors] didn’t say that to us, all they said was that, ‘There is no more work,'” the worker claimed.

Now back in Jamaica, the men say they want a chance to share their side of the story with ministry officials.

“We are trying to say, ‘Meet with us,’ – man willing to travel from Westmoreland to meet with the minister. Even if they are not going to give us a chance to go back, just hear us out. We don’t know if anything can come out of this, but at the end of the day, we just want to meet with the minister and the head for the overseas employment unit. Right now we just wish we could have that meeting, that’s all we are asking, the guys are willing to come any day,” he said Wednesday.

Labour Minister Pearnel Charles Jr, who spoke with the representative shortly after the matter was brought to his attention, arranged for the face-to-face meeting with the workers, who feel they have been victimised for going public with the video.

The video, which had been shared on several social media platforms and was also sent to the Observer at that time, showed overflowing toilets and bathroom facilities and waterlogged flooring in the bunkhouse which features an open-plan layout. In one video, workers recorded a meeting between themselves and their handler, who, in a tirade punctuated by expletives, accused them of deliberately pouring grease down the drains on more than one occasion to cause the unsightly flooding. The man, whose voice dominated the video, interrupted the workers’ attempts to deny any such activity.