The over 100 farm workers who want to travel to Canada to be part of its seasonal fruit picking programme are growing frustrated. They say their requests to the Minister of Labour to facilitate their departure have gone unanswered.
Sidique Ali Hosein, one of the farmworkers, told Newsday on Wednesday, they are just waiting with no answer.
“It is very frustrating. We are not there begging for handouts. We are ready to work and provide for our families.”
Ali Hosein is one of over 150 migrant workers who wrote to Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus two Fridays ago for her ministry to facilitate their departure.
He has been a migrant worker for seven years in Ontario at Schuyler Farms. He said his employers have already sent to the ministry the details on the chartered flight that will be sent to Trinidad for workers on that farm.
Ali Hosein pointed out that already St Vincent and St Lucia have sent hundreds of their citizens to Canada.
On Tuesday, St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet announced on his Facebook page that 50 St Lucians left the island, by chartered fight, to take up employment in Canada under the programme.
He said they will work for two years and eight months on farms in Ontario.
Also on Tuesday, Vincentian Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar announced that 137 nationals of that country left for Canada.
He said because of the covid19 pandemic, workers now had insurance if they get the virus and will be quarantined for 14 days when they get to Canada. During this period, they will be paid.
Caesar said the Eastern Caribbean countries have a well-established relationship with Canada and the farmworkers program and, as a result, several protocols have been agreed to in an effort to protect workers who send a large percentage of remittances to this country.
“We are ensuring that everything is being done right,” Caesar said, adding that workers will be tested before they leave for Canada, so they can be aware of their status and their employer would be aware that when they left St Vincent, they were negative for covid19.
He said there was significant demand for farmworkers from the Eastern Caribbean because Canada does not want to hire workers from certain countries because of the prevalence of covid19.
“So, this is a good opportunity for Vincentians,” Caesar said.
Ali Hosein said they too want an opportunity to travel to Canada.
In a previous interview, he said he was willing to sign a waiver indemnifying the State against liability if they contract covid19 there.
He said he was sure his colleagues would do the same.
Last week, Baptiste-Primus responded to migrant workers' pre-action protocol letter. She said the workers’ letter was sent to the Ministry of the Attorney General for advice and response. She added that her ministry was in the process of giving instructions and a “substantive response would be forthcoming at the earliest.”
Messages left for the Labour Minister and AG Faris Al-Rawi were not answered.