(Jamaica Observer) KINGSTON, Jamaica — A new batch of 113 farm workers will take up employment opportunities in Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP).

Of the total, 102 workers are returnees and will be deployed mainly to farms in the Ontario region of Canada. They will depart the island tomorrow (May 22).

The workers will be employed in greenhouse crop production, food processing, tobacco planting, vegetable farming and fruit tree cultivation.

The SAWP, which is part of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Overseas Employment Programme, involves contractual agricultural workers who are recruited to meet the short-term demand of manual labour during planting and harvesting seasons.

A send-off ceremony was held at the ministry’s Overseas Employment Services Centre in downtown Kingston today. A previous batch of close to 300 Jamaicans departed the island in January.

In her address, Portfolio Minister Shahine Robinson, said the farm work programme has become a household name in the country, adding that almost every family or community has benefited from the undertaking.

She urged the workers to be good ambassadors for Jamaica, pointing out that measures are in place to ensure that their rights are protected.

The labour minister said every year, representatives of the Canadian and Jamaican governments, along with the employers and non-governmental organisations from Canada, meet and discuss the terms and conditions of employment of workers on the SAWP.

“We seek to guarantee at all times that the labour standards governing employment on these farms are enforced. Most importantly, we take into consideration the safety and well-being of our farm workers. I would like to specially thank the Canadian government for its continued support in this matter,” she said.

The minister implored the workers to keep in contact with their families, especially their children. 

“You will need to maintain the lines of communication, and be sure to provide the financial and emotional support, which I am certain they will need in your absence,” she said.

The minister added that social workers from the Ministry’s Family Services Unit will be visiting and carrying out interventions and extending support where necessary.

Robinson encouraged the workers, particularly those who will be travelling for the first time, to do their best. “Learn from the good examples of those who have worked well, have satisfied their employers’ expectations and have earned themselves a request to return,” she said.