KINGSTON – Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, has said that all savings due to workers engaged in the United States and Canadian overseas employment programmes are in safe custody and will be paid over when the workers themselves make a demand.
Mr. Charles gave the assurance in a statement to the House of Representatives on March 15, against the background of a recent newspaper article, which claimed that money was owed to the workers.
Describing the article as mischievous, Minister Charles said the reference to $17 million in savings being owed to 445 farm workers gave the impression that the Ministry is not making an effort to disburse the funds.
“Every effort was made to contact these workers, but they are not here. They have absconded from the programme over the years…based on the contract we have with them, the funds cannot be paid over to anyone else, unless there is proper authorisation,” he told the House. He assured that all the necessary arrangements are in place to account for these funds, and will be disbursed when the workers return.
Turning to the matter of the selection of workers for dispatch to Canada, Mr. Charles noted that the recruitment process is very structured, as employers must either visit Jamaica to make their selection, or give specific criteria for the recruitment of the workers they want.
He said contrary to the newspaper article, when workers are returned to Jamaica due to illness or injury, the cost of that return trip is borne by the Jamaica Liaison Service, not the employer.
In respect of the employer cited in the article, Mr. Charles informed that there were 14 replacements due to leaving work without authorisation, or breach of contracts due to domestic problems or family emergencies.
“This particular employer started out in 2007/2008 with 22 workers. The number increased to 80 in 2010 and for 2011, the request is for 130 workers. I want to commend this and all other Canadian employers for showing such confidence in the Jamaican work force,” the Minister said.
He asserted that because of the structured nature of the Jamaica programme, the Government was not intimidated by competition from Mexico and other countries.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter