UCASE President Vincent Morrison and commentator Judith Wedderburn
By Clinton McGregor
The Canadian Farm Work report of the Helene-Davis Whyte-led Task Force is again coming under heavy criticism following a new report of Jamaican farm workers being forced to work and live in sub-par conditions in Canada.
Workers on a farm in Ontario, walked off the job on Thursday to protest the conditions after waste water flooded their living quarters.
The fact-finding team appointed last year to investigate the conditions of farm workers in Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme, had reported that the workers interviewed were satisfied with the working and living conditions on the farms.
But speaking Sunday on Radio Jamaica's weekly news review programme, That's a Wrap, President of the Union of Clerical Administrative and Supervisory Employees, Vincent Morrison, said the report did not reflect a true picture of the struggles facing some of the farm workers.
He recalled a previous mission, of which he was a part, that was put together under Portia Simpson Miller's tenure as Minister of Labour.
According to Mr. Morrison, that mission extensively toured areas of Canada and found "some good arrangements" but there were other farms that were poor and had to be threatened that Jamaica would pull out of the programme if conditions did not improve.
But he argued that the report of the recent fact-finding team was flawed and hurried as the team was only sent to Canada for a few days.
The UCASE president urged the Labour Ministry to recruit more liasion officers to replace those who have left the service.
Public commentator Judith Wedderburn also suggested the issues being faced on Canadian farms could either be the result of liason officers not adequately carrying out their duties or there not being enough of them.
Additionally, she said she is not convinced that an extensive investigation was conducted by the fact-finding team.
"When you repeated a while ago that more than 50 per cent of workers said they were satisfied or happy... immediately I thought that insufficient numbers of farms with complaints from Jamaican workers were not visited and reviewed, and the farm workers there given the opportunity to speak their minds, describe their situation honestly, with evidence, without fear of retribution or discrimination."
Miss Wedderburn called for more liasion officers to be brought into the system and for the Ministry of Labour to ensure they are adequately conducting their responsibilities.
She was also speaking Sunday on Radio Jamaica's That's a Wrap.