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Letter of the Day | We demand full disclosure and swift action for farmworkers

Published:Thursday | March 23, 2023 | 12:20 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

The Advocates Network (AN) commends the Ministry of Labour and Social Security on deploying a fact-finding team to investigate the working conditions of Jamaican farmworkers under the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme, and appreciates the efforts made to establish a complete scope of the issues and concerns. It is reported that the team visited farms, and met with farmworkers and advocacy groups, among other duties. The AN, however, demands full disclosure and swift actions. According to the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), farmworkers feel that the Jamaican Government is not doing enough to protect migrant farmworkers. One farmworker stated: “We want them to speak up and tell the

Canadian government to give us permanent resident status, so we can protect ourselves from bad living and working conditions.”

The AN notes that on October 23, 2022, the team met with the MWAC, which included advocates, current and former farmworkers. It was reported that on arrival to Jamaica on October 24, 2022, it would take two to four weeks for a report, consisting of findings and recommendations, to be completed and submitted to Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda, who would table the report in Parliament. On February 2, 2023, Radio Jamaica News Online reported that the team was awaiting confirmation on the number of injured farmworkers to complete the report. Was this tally forwarded? It is now more than four months since the team has returned, but no report has been tabled.

NO EXPLANATION

We note the difficulty and the sacrifice made by some persons who have given statements during the fact-finding mission. We have learned that at least two farmworkers who met with the team were not invited back to work on the programme, and were given no explanation. The Advocates Network wants to know: Are there mechanisms in place to assure that farmworkers who stand up for their rights do not face retaliation? How is the Ministry of Labour and Social Security protecting farmworkers in light of the expressed concerns? When will the report be tabled in Parliament or shared with the public? As taxpayers, who paid for the fact-finding team investigation, we demand full disclosure and swift actions to remedy the concerns of Canadian farmworkers. The Jamaican people must continue to hold the Government accountable for protecting Jamaicans at home and abroad. This is no nine-day wonder.

THE ADVOCATES NETWORK

advocatesnet@gmail.com