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Kellier to address farm work ticket issue in House

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 11, 2013    

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LABOUR and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier is to make a statement about the issuing of farm work ticket in the House of Representatives next Tuesday, in response to complaints from disgruntled Members of Parliament that they were being left out of the overseas employment programme's recruitment process.

Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Alvin McIntosh, made the announcement at Tuesday's meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), at Gordon House.

McIntosh has since December been under fire from MPs on both sides of the House of Representatives who sit on the committee, over their inability to recommend persons to join the 10,000-12,000 Jamaicans who work in the United States and Canada annually on the overseas programme.

"In that presentation he (Kellier) will outline, in full detail, the principle, the process in respect of recruitment and selection," McIntosh assured the MPs.

He said that, without preempting the minister, he felt that the members will be "fully satisfied" with the presentation, "in terms of equity, in terms of reasonableness and in terms of access".

One of several issues raised by Government MP Dr Dayton Campbell (North West St Ann), was that there was an unfair advantage to Clarendon in the selection process. Campbell's criticism was based on ministry figures which showed Clarendon ahead in all areas of the overseas programmes, except in the recruitment of workers for the hospitality or hotel sector.

In terms of the farm work programme, Clarendon had 669 workers with the next highest parish being St Catherine with 388. Clarendon also led the low skill programme with 24 workers to second placed St Catherine's 18, and in the Canadian agricultural programme had 1,280 to St Catherine's 906. However, in the hospitality area, it was the North Coast parishes of St James and St Ann which led with 142 and 123, respectively, with no other parish having as many as 100 workers on that programme.

McIntosh said that there could be no guarantee that any parish would benefit from a larger number of persons being selected for the programmes. He explained that the majority of persons who have been on the programme since last year, were requested by employers whom they have worked with previously and only a limited number of new workers were accepted.

He said that the ministry did not want to limit persons eligible to make recommendations for recruitment to MPs.

"They should be able to go to a church leader, they should be able to go to the principal of a school (who should have) no problem in making a recommendation. The important point is the process which they are subjected to; how the screening takes place," McIntosh said.

He explained that persons who are recommended are interviewed and, if they meet the requirement, are listed.

"But, that is not the end of it. After that, criminal records, medical checks... all these things have to be done. And there is another stage in the process, if the person is considered suitable by us, when the recommendations are made to the high commissions or the embassies, they also have an input in the final determination of who travels," McIntosh pointed out.

He added that even before the recommendations are sent to the embassies, the overseas employers come to Jamaica and interview selectees to determine their suitability.

But, Campbell said that while he accepted that there were repeat workers, he couldn't understand why 15 per cent came from one parish.

"I am still at odds as to why I wasn't asked to submit 30 names for North West St Ann," he insisted.

Concerns were also raised about the selection process and the unavailability of farm work "cards" for MPs by Opposition MP Maris Dalrymple-Phillibert and Government MPs Raymond Pryce and Denise Daley. But, the permanent secretary pointed out that the last selection was done in March 2011.

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