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JIS News

Some 18 persons, who are benefitting from temporary work in the food processing industry under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), are to be permanently employed at the end of their 26-week stint.

The workers have been employed to Southern Fruits and Food Processors in Bull Savannah, St. Elizabeth since July, through the efforts of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

The company’s Managing Director, Derrick Rochester, tells JIS News that the company, once approached, was happy to provide employment.

He says that after the initial 26 weeks, it is the intention of the organisation to hire the participants as part of the company’s regular workforce.

“It came in very convenient for us as a company because many of our employees are now pensionable and we have been giving thought to replacing some of them and we are looking at this group of JEEP workers with a view to using them as part of our regular workforce,” he says.

Mr. Rochester informs that the Labour Ministry paid the salaries for the workers for the first 13 weeks and the company is providing compensation for the remainder of the employment period, which ends this month.

He says that many of those employed are graduates of HEART/Trust NTA and they have been exposed to all aspects of the company’s operations, including raw material preparation, processing, labeling of the product, etcetera.

He says that the workers were also trained to operate machinery, enabling them to become better rounded and to be an asset to the company as it explores expansion opportunities.

“We are in the habit of promoting our workers and cross training them. In fact, some of these JEEP workers have been exposed to machines. We have trained some of them to operate the boiler, the steamer … and other aspects of the company’s operations so we are actually training them into skilled people and in time, they will prove to be an asset to Southern Fruits and Food Processors,” he tells JIS News.

For her part, Director in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, with responsibility for the JEEP, Diane Spence, expresses delight that the persons will be recruited after the initial phase is completed.

She informs that based on the level of demand from the corporate partners, more than 400 individuals have been employed since the programme started in May.

The participants are employed in various organisations, including but not limited to the food and beverage industry, insurance, automotive, and as customer service representatives.

Southern Fruits and Food Processors supplies quality and safe food products under its Village Pride brand for the local and export markets. These include ackees in brine, mango nectar, carrot juice and tomato ketchup (regular & hot).

In 2003, the company implemented the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system of food safety for canned ackees, and received the endorsement of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and consequently, was granted exemption status from batch-by-batch testing by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica for this product, and more recently, its tomato ketchup.

They now have products available in bulk /retail packaging such as June plum, mango, sorrel and carrot purees;  jerk seasoning and sauces; crushed escallion; and pepper mash.

JEEP is one of the strategies of the Government to respond to chronic unemployment among some Jamaicans, particularly those in lower socio-economic groups, persons with special needs, as well as those with low skill levels.  

During phase one of JEEP, which ended recently, approximately 15,000 persons were employed in several ministries and agencies, undertaking tasks in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, education and intensive labour.

For phase two, $6 billion has been earmarked to be spent on projects in  the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries;  Labour and Social Security; and  Housing;  HEART Trust/NTA and the National Housing Trust (NHT), among others.

It is projected that some 35,000 persons will be employed during this phase of the programme.

Members of Parliament, other political representatives, government agencies, citizens associations, church groups and non-governmental organizations are able to make submissions to the JEEP Secretariat for projects to be executed under the initiative. Interested individuals may contact the Secretariat at­­­ 754-2584 – 9 or visit jeep@mtw.gov.jm