PNP wary of Minister Samuda's plan for farm-workersTuesday, May 04, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Shadow Minister of Local Government, Denise Daley, is wary that Minister of Labour and Social Security, Karl Samuda, may be planning an overhaul of the farm work programme which could disenfranchise many Jamaicans who see a farm work ticket as a lifeline.
In a statement today, Daley noted Samuda's exclamation, "Something is not right with the farm work programme," which she said is causing much concern for prospective applicants and for local government representatives nationally.
“From what is detailed in media releases, prospective farm workers must now go through a pre-qualification assessment that will determine their eligibility based on a list of criteria developed by the Ministry. While we encourage the standardisation of systems, we are adamant that any revision must consider the long-established process which has worked successfully for years. The minister seems bent on circumventing the integral role that parish councillors play in identifying applicants from the communities they serve,” said MP Daley.
“It is concerning that there are issues of inequitable distribution of government-sponsored opportunities. Using Members of Parliaments only, could prompt accusations of political bias. Councillors operate at the community level, they must be allowed to continue identifying candidates to ensure the widest pool of applicants is served,” the shadow minister added.
Noting that the Overseas Employment Programme contributes billions in remittances annually to the economy, Daley is warning that any overhaul of the process must ensure that experienced and qualified candidates are still given an opportunity to participate.
She insisted that, “It is important that we don't adversely affect longstanding relationships between farm-workers and their overseas employers. The government should honour the list of applicants which has already been submitted and ensure this opportunity is not revoked from qualified workers, who have been anxiously awaiting dispatch.”
Daley is also encouraging Minister Samuda to set aside a specific quota for recruiting new applicants.
She added that the Ministry of Labour should ensure that the skills farm-workers possess are better marketed, allowing them to access more opportunities that will enable them to improve their standard of living and provide for their families.
“We must do all that we can to expand and sustain this lifeline for our people,” she said.
Likewise, People's National Party (PNP) General Secretary, Dr Dayton Campbell, took issue with plans by Minister Karl Samuda to change the procedures which guide the Overseas Employment Programme.
He said he fears that the minister's supposed “overhaul” is a partisan attempt to overlook the applicants submitted by former PNP MPs.
“This move seems nothing more than a thinly veiled partisan purge of the waiting pool of qualified applicants. Workers recommended years ago by former PNP MPs will be replaced with applicants recommended by current JLP MPs. The proposal to exclude councillors from the process is intended to further bias the applicant selection process. The government must not deny the opportunity to those persons whose applications were successfully processed, and who have been patiently awaiting the opportunity to be called for overseas employment,” Dr Campbell said.
Campbell expressed concerns that the Farm Work programme, which is a longstanding government-to-government arrangement, is being co-opted for purely partisan purposes.
“This is not only unfair to applicants, but may threaten the future of the programme if our bilateral partners believe that it is being operated corruptly,” he said.
The People's National Party further reminded the government that the selection system has worked successfully for decades, and they should avoid any inclination to destroy the integrity of the system.