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Basseterre, St. Kitts, July 31, 2019 (SKNIS): On Wednesday, July 31, 2019, the Department of Labour hosted an orientation workshop for 21 persons from St. Kitts and Nevis, who will be spending the next two years in Canada under the Canada/Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (CCSAWP).

Citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis have been participating in the CCSAWP for more than 50 years. However, it is usually for a few months per year. Considering that this is the first time that nationals of the country will participate in the two-year programme, officials from the government agency placed extra emphasis on helping to prepare the workers for this extended undertaking.

The half-day orientation session, held at the National ICT Centre, featured presentations from Lucinda Francis, Head of the Employment Unit at the Department of Labour, who shared a history of the CCSAWP as well as what is expected of the workers while in Canada. Alexis Jeffers gave a testimonial of the programme, while Dr. Analdo Bailey gave Personal Financial Management tips to the group. Importantly, two teleconference sessions from Canada gave valuable insight. Firstly, Olaf Fontenelle, Chief Liaison Officer of the Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS) discussed “The Worker Experience at a Glance”, and Tara Hodge an official at the Consulate of St. Kitts and Nevis in Canada shared the support that will be available for the workers while they are abroad.

The level of support is expected to be improved following a July 12 to 23, 2019 tour of seven farms in Canada by officials from the St. Kitts and Nevis government. The mission team included Senior Minister and Minister of Labour, Honourable Vance Amory, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour Ron Dublin-Collins, and Shermel Cumberbatch of the Department of Labour.

Permanent Secretary Dublin-Collins noted that the visit was quite useful as it allowed officials greater insight into what is required of the workers, their living accommodations, and the working environment on the farms. The team also engaged with nationals who are already in Canada on various farms.

“In the past workers have complained that … they would have been very much alone in Canada. That will not be your reality now,” the permanent secretary told the group. “You have a support network that will provide you with the necessary support. You will be provided with information and they [officials at the St. Kitts and Nevis High Commission in Canada] will be provided information where every one of you are, and you will be able to communicate in a more effective way [so that] we can resolve problems.”

A report from the ECLS showed that the 2018 Average Net Worker Earnings/Remittances for farm workers in Canada surpassed EC $27.5 million for six member-states in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The countries listed were Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Vincent. Figures for workers from St. Vincent were more than EC $9.9 million – the top listed. St. Kitts was listed below half a million and was the fifth-ranked of the six countries.

Senior Minister Amory told the orientation participants that: “The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is desirous of increasing the numbers of our citizens in the programme and your success, if you make a success of it, if you show you are a good worker from St. Kitts and Nevis, chances are it is going to be a good testimony for other workers yet not recruited so you have a responsibility to other persons as well.”

The Minister of Labour urged the 21 males present to: “take this opportunity seriously. Conduct yourself in a manner which does not affect the negative conditions of your work in any way. As they say in tennis ‘the ball is in your court.’”  

26 persons in total from St. Kitts and Nevis are participating in this year’s CCSAWP.  The local government is exploring opportunities to facilitate females interested in the seasonal work programme.

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