The Eastern Caribbean Liaisons Services (ECLS) headquartered in Toronto, Canada, for decades has been charged with the responsibilty of executing the Canadian Farm Workers Programme.
During the last two (2) months, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it extremely challenging to move employees to Canada from the Caribbean and other regions. Further, both employers and employees have been making significant adjustments to the added necessity of mandatory quarantine upon arrival in Canada.
Employees are paid for the period while they are in quarantine; checked before leaving St. Vincent and the Grenadines to ensure that they are COVID-19 free; and all workers from the OECS are provided with COVID-19 supplementary medical insurance.
The adjustments to the new COVID-19 work environment has not been without its woes. Workers are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing and all the other protocols mandated by the authorities in Canada. For farm workers who have been on the programme for decades, the new work place culture comes with its own set of challenges.
During the course of last week, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines extended to eighteen (18) impacted Vincentian farm employees, the all paid expenses option, for hotel accomodation, until an unforseen accomodation issue is addressed. Three (3) of the eighteen (18) employees have so far explored the option.
The Minister of Labour of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, explained that, the ECLS and the Department of Labour of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is in regular contact with all workers, and will ensure that all issues are ameliorated as they arise.
He thanked the ECLS secretariat for their hard work and diligence, since an easier option B always existed, which was simply to cancel the programme until after the pandemic.
The programme earned for Vincentian workers $12,000,000 in 2019. The Department of Labour in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the ECLS, the Canadian Government, and the farm owners are working together to ensure that solutions are found quickly to these challenges as they arise in this period of COVID-19.