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Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program gets a nod of approval

Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program gets a nod of approval

Canada’s living and working condition for migrant farm workers gets approval from Jamaica.

By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Image via www.farmsontario.ca

According to an independent investigation by the Jamaican government, the majority of Jamaican farmworkers who come to Canada each season are satisfied with their living and working conditions under the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Programme (S.A.W.P.).

The investigation, launched after international media attention emerged citing allegations of “systematic slave-like conditions” involving Jamaicans who came annually to work on Canadian farms, wholly debunked those claims, finding the overall assessment of the working and living conditions were cited as good by Jamaican farm workers.

“From our own assessment, we were able to observe a deep sense of pride, and fulfillment among the vast majority of farm workers,” the report reads. “A self-affirming presence that embraced the psychic fulfillment to their families and communities, rooted in the cultural sensibilities of a people who know what it is to show respect to one another, to display tolerance and understanding in their daily discourse, and a work ethic that underlines the importance of productivity, efficiency and equity in the workplace. This was the kind of observation, which underscored a much more impactful benefit of the program, and why Jamaican labour is in such great demand.”

The investigation added that “we are satisfied that there is no evidence to bear out the claim that the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is akin to ‘systematic slavery.’”

A survey of Jamaican workers found that more than two-thirds (66.9 percent) of respondents agreed that the work in Canada aligned with their expectations, with a smaller group (14.6 percent) saying that enrolling in S.A.W.P. and the work required is easier than anticipated. The consensus amongst the respondents was a standard of a 10-hour day and a 40-hour week.

Nearly three-quarters (73.7 percent) of respondents agreed to willingly work on their off day, citing extra pay as the driving factor. However, a little more than one-third (34.9 percent) mentioned they would voluntarily work on their off day to finish the job at hand. Nearly all respondents (93.6 percent) reported if they were ill and could not physically work, they would remain at their accommodation.

More than seven in 10 (71.8 percent) Jamaican farm workers believed treatment by their employer was either good or very good, and more than 87 percent agreed that their farm owners treat them with respect. Overall, more than 70 percent of respondents provided positive reviews of their housing and living accommodation, with 30.4 percent saying it was “excellent” and 40 percent describing it as “good.”

“Jamaican farmworkers are essential to S.A.W.P.,” said Ken Forth, President of the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Service (F.A.R.M.S.) that administers S.A.W.P. in Ontario. “The findings of the investigation reinforce the deep sense of effort, pride, and fulfillment they carry with them on-site. That’s the reason why Jamaican labour is in such great demand.”

The investigation was conducted by an independent task force appointed by the Jamaican government that used a variety of methods to collect data from Jamaican S.A.W.P., including a survey, in-person and telephone interviews, and focus groups, plus on-site inspections of 65 farms in six provinces across Canada. The team also engaged representatives of the Jamaica Liaison Service, the committee charged with the responsibility to oversee the management of the S.A.W.P., as well as representatives of the Canadian regulatory authorities, the Jamaican farm workers, associations of farm owners, and individual senior members of select farms.

More information about Canada’s Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program may be found at https://farmsontario.ca.


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