TWO thousand additional persons will this year join the pool created by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security from which persons are selected to work on Canadian farms.
Minister of Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier told the House of Representatives Tuesday that because of the increase each rural member of Parliament will receive 40 application forms and each urban MP 25 forms. He said that in addition, parish councillors will also be allowed a quota of the forms.
Kellier said that the ministry was making a fresh start with the programme this year, which would include urban MPs who had been left out in previous years as their constituencies were not considered farming areas.
He said that the pre-selection process will run March 4-15. MPs received their application forms during the sitting of the House on Tuesday.
Kellier's statement followed severe criticisms from new MPs sitting on the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee about being left out of the selection process.
The minister said that it appeared that the criticisms resulted from misunderstandings, adding that there are 12,000 Jamaicans currently participating in the programmes in Canada and the United States.
He explained, however, that he had made a deliberate decision to have no recruitment of persons for the overseas farm work programme, which includes Canada and the United States, last year.
"Because of the number of persons who are already in the pool, to do a recruitment on top of that, without going into the field to know what the projection was, would not really make sense," Kellier explained.
However, he said that having done the "due diligence", by visiting farms across Canada on two occasions last year, he was satisfied with the prediction of the employers that there would be an expansion of the programme this year.
"We expect, if all goes well, we will be sending no less than 2,000 (additional) workers to Canada this year, on top of the returning workers," he said.
He said that urban MPs who were being given a chance to recommend workers would have to produce the numbers capable of doing the work or their allocation would be cut next time around. But, he warned the MPs that the final selection from the pool is done by the Canadian farmers or their representatives.
"We have the pool of ready workers and it is the employer, and sometimes his representative, who does the selection from the pool," he said.