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Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles has revealed that amendments will be made to the Employment Agencies Regulation Act. The Act, which was last amended in 2007, governs the activities of employment agencies in Jamaica. Under the Act, an employment agency is any agency or registry in Jamaica that is engaged in business in connection with the employment of persons in any capacity.
Speaking at a meeting with employment agencies on February 1, Minister Charles explained that the amendments would seek to regulate and further provide for the proper administration of employment agencies.
The proposed amendments to the Act will include a decision on the maximum fees that an employment agency can charge. This charge will be determined and fixed at three levels based on new workers being placed in new jobs, new workers being placed in old jobs, and old workers being placed in old jobs. The fees for applying for a licence, which is now $10 and the $50 penalty for breaching the regulations, will also be increased to realistic levels.
“It is a major sacrifice for many of you as it is for some of the people who have been employed to go abroad, and we need to expose where the problem is and see how we can solve it. We are going to offer you the opportunity to get the Jamaican government service to cover your operations,” he told the representatives from the employment agencies.
Citing some of the concerns with the operations of employment agencies, he said that workers were being recruited and offered employment, only to find out on their arrival in the United States that there are no vacancies.
He pointed out that in many cases, workers were left to fend for themselves. “Some of the workers don’t even have bus fare when they get into a little problem, they don’t have anybody to call, they don’t have money to hire a lawyer to defend them…whereas, if you had just advised us that you send May Jane to Arizona and it was recorded, nobody would have to call anybody,” Minister Charles said.
“We have a liaison service with a number of people who travel through the states to make sure that those people are alright and if they get in trouble, we’ll represent them,” he added.
He informed that some employment agencies were charging exorbitant fees and therefore, a standardized amount needed to be determined. “Some of you are not kind to others, because what you’re charging those poor people for the little work you get for them, it’s better if they didn’t go.we have to bring those things under a new regime,” he stressed.
Minister Charles noted that under the Employment Agencies Regulation Act, agents must provide health insurance coverage for workers. However, many agents do not comply.
“There are no insurance provisions for some, no pension provisions, no legal provisions, and no provisions to get a black woman from Prospect adjusted in white Arizona and therefore, the employment agencies must inform the workers of the social and cultural adjustments that will have to take place,” he said, emphasizing that, “we have to do it, it’s a different country with a different culture.”
Mr. Charles also noted that some private agents “pirate” workers from properties, by enticing them to leave their assigned properties before the end of the contract period. This, he argued, was an extremely dangerous practice as it questioned the credibility of the Government’s programme on the line.
“The practice of some private agencies to ‘pirate’ workers is not going down well with the American government.you recruit workers that we have recruited already and that’s not right,” he said.
Other amendments to the Act will include the elimination of any hidden fees to be charged by an agent from a worker; all workers recruited by private employment agencies must be certified by the Minister before they may seek an H2B visa to travel overseas from the United States Embassy, and workers must be certified as medically fit and have no criminal record.