OECS Honours Longstanding Seasonal Agricultural Workers

Longstanding farm workers with the Canada Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) were honoured for their years of dedicated service at the inaugural Eastern Caribbean Liaison Services (ECLS) Worker Recognition and Employer Appreciation Event, held in Leamington, Ontario, on Sunday, 14 July 2019.

The event was held at the Roma Club in Leamington, the location of many SAWP farming partners. This facilitated the attendance of approximately 300 farm workers, who welcomed the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of their peers.

SAWP falls under the umbrella of the Canada Temporary Foreign Workers Programme and is coordinated by the ECLS in close collaboration with OECS Ministries of Labour, the Canadian Government, and Employers in the Agriculture sector.

32 workers representing four OECS Member States were recognised for participating in the Programme for 15 or more years.  The longest-running participant was William Esprit of the Commonwealth of Dominica, who was commended for an outstanding 33 years of dedicated service to the Programme.

In addition to the awards for dedicated service, all of the Leamington-based Employer Partners were presented with Certificates of Appreciation for their longstanding commitment to employing OECS workers. Three team members of the ECLS were also presented with longstanding service awards at the event, ranging from 16 to 29 years of service.

Worker Award recipient, Boniface Hippolyte, said that the SAWP provided him with a livelihood and improved his lifestyle over the past 15 years. “I feel very good, very proud. This program has helped me a lot. I help my mother back home; I was able to send my children to school.”

Fellow worker Heth Stephens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who has been a part of the SAWP for nine years, praised the ECLS for its support of workers. “The ECLS service is excellent. There’s no time I’ve called them, and they haven’t done everything in their power to help me. They really try to care for us as workers.”

From the Employer Partners’ perspective, the ECLS is also fulfilling its mandate. Doug Balisilli of D&L Balisilli Farms reflected on the good relationship he has built with the ECLS during the 12 years his farm has been involved in the SAWP. “It has been a good move for us to be a partner in this Programme, we have nothing but positive feedback. The ECLS is great to work with and it is really nice of them to recognise us at this appreciation event.”

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