MP wants overseas farm work preparation programme

AMID recent unsavoury reports about some Jamaicans participating in the overseas farm work programme, Member of Parliament (MP) for St Elizabeth North Eastern Delroy Slowley is calling for the introduction of a preparatory programme for potential recruits.

Making his contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Slowley argued that this initiative would ensure that Jamaicans do not become extinct from the overseas farm work programme which has been beneficial to numerous families over the years.

According to Slowley, the HEART/NSTA Trust could be used to facilitate a national sensitisation programme for people who are interested in the overseas employment programme.

“We need to have a pool of persons who are prepared and ready to be ambassadors for this programme,” said Slowley as he pointed out that the overseas farm work programme has had a positive impact on his rural constituency.

“This programme acts as an economic stimulant to many farmers and their families. However, in recent times, we have seen many negative occurrences surrounding the continuity of this programme,” said Slowley.

His comments came days after permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Colette Roberts Risden raised concern that the undesirable conduct and poor work ethic of some Jamaicans are making it difficult for others to secure employment under the overseas farmwork programme.

Roberts Risden, who was addressing a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, said one of the biggest complaints from Canadian employers is the quality of the new workers, particularly their work ethic.

She said one employer complained about a worker who said that he thought that he was coming to do a nine-to-five job and didn’t realise it was going to be so cold.

Roberts Risden stressed that the ministry, MPs and everybody involved in the programme will have to redouble their efforts because some of those workers are “making it bad for Jamaica and other workers”.

“It is better to send 1,000 quality workers…than we send 2,000, [where] 1,000 is quality, 1,000 isn’t quality [and] that 1,000 taints the other 9,000 that were there previously and affects their return. So we have to keep the supply of good workers — people who understand what they’re going into,” said Roberts Risden.