Seven OECS Member States have been taking part in the various temporary worker programs established with Canada 50 years ago: Antigua & Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. These agreements enabled a significant number of Eastern Caribbean citizens to benefit from employment opportunities in Canada.
One of the objectives of the Toronto-based Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS) is to strengthen ties with Canada through the increase of the number of workers taking part in these programs, particularly the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).
In this framework, ECLS and the Labour Commissioners of the seven countries mentioned recently concluded the first technical working group meeting where the newly appointed Chief Liaison Officer, Mr. Olaf Fontenelle shared the progress of an interim action plan for the short to medium-term development strategy.
The working group has also been put in place to build a unified approach to the participation in the SAWP Annual Review Meeting. Therefore, the OECS Ministries of Labour were able to present their individual country processes on the Selection and Orientation components of the SAWP, as a group, resulting in the identification of similar challenges and good practices for active knowledge sharing.
Participants agreed unanimously to prepare one consolidated process map for supply countries, for consideration by the OECS Council of Ministers of Labour; for regularizing the Selection and Orientation processes among member states. In this session, the ECLS presented on the in-Canada processes associated with ensuring worker welfare and maintaining healthy employer relations.
Ambassador Anthony Severin, Head of the International Relations Unit at the OECS Commission, reaffirmed the critical role of the ECLS in deepening linkage with Canadian partners:
“We at the Commission view the ECLS as a critical element of the OECS Development Strategy; an instrument of hitherto untapped potential, whose true contribution to the development of our region is yet to be realized. Unemployment continues to be one of the most critical issues facing our individual Member States, and we are of the view that the approach to its resolution has to be strategic and multi-pronged.” “I referred earlier to the untapped potential of the ECLS, particularly for addressing the unemployment problems of the region. We are of the view that much more can be done, and to this end we have challenged the new leadership of the ECLS to do two things: firstly, to increase the number of workers under the seasonal agricultural workers programme; and secondly, to expand the scope of coverage of the ECLS to other areas of service provision. The matter of increasing the number of workers requires no elaboration as the logic is clear.” He explained.
The meeting concluded on a positive note, achieving its objectives beyond the expectations of the members of the working group with the formulation of an ECLS SAWP 2018 Marketing Strategy in-progress and a commitment of stakeholders to a ECLS 3-year Strategic Planning Exercise in early 2018.
The Annual Review Meetings of the Canada-Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme was held right after the first technical working group. It took place from 19 to 23 of November in Barbados and attested that the reinforced collaboration between Ministries of Labour and the ECLS has been positively received by Canadians partners.
The OECS team included Hon. Stephenson King - Minister of Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour, St. Lucia, Hon. Vance Amory - Minister of Labour, St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Saboto Ceasar - Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS), and members of the ECLS Technical Working Group.
Presentations were made by Government of Canada representatives, sending a re-assuring signal of their commitments to strengthen the administration of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme. Provincial Farmers/Employer associations reiterated their satisfaction with workers coming from the Caribbean over the past 50 years, and offered assurances of the possibilities for a greater intake of workers.
Concurrently, all Caribbean Liaison Services pledged their continued efforts towards maintaining a supply of well prepared and experienced workers. Further, pursuant to the OECS’ strategy to help alleviate unemployment in member states, the ECLS offered assurances of its commitment to improving the quality of worker welfare and employer relations during the work period in Canada.