Overseas farm workers seeking better employment

May 04, 2017
Scores of persons line the sidewalk along East Street at the entrance to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Overseas Employment Centre in May.

Among the hundreds of Jamaicans who swarmed the Ministry of Labour and Social Security office on East Street in Kingston for a selection process for the overseas employment (farm work) programme yesterday was Clarendon farmer Fitzroy Edwards.

Edwards, who has been going on the programme since 1990, told THE STAR that he was able to school his three daughters and start to build his home in the hillside community of Frankfield in his birth parish from the money he earned on the programme.

But he said his progress was slow for the past two seasons after he was forced to switch to a farm that forces him to pay almost a US$100 (J$12,900) per week to eat from their canteen.

"Where I used to work, we used to just buy food and cook what we want. But now whether you want it or not, you have to pay for it," Edwards said. "When you pay over $US80 (J$10,320) for food for the week and you only working for seven weeks, you don't have much to carry home."

The 57-year-old said that the farm he worked on since 1990 closed down in 2015. He said he switched to a farm in New York, but the strict restrictions on this farm renders his going on the programme futile as he hasn't been able to make any money.

"When you usually come back, you could buy something and work on your house, but now it nuh make sense you go," Edwards said.


Better paying programmes


He said that while he is thankful the programme has enabled him to put his three daughters through school, if he is not able to switch, he doubts he will be able to finish his home.

"I have to be relying on the farm at home a lot now to get money," Edwards said. "So I come early this morning to see if I can talk to one of the big man dem to get a switch."

Edwards said he farms yam, banana and sugar cane at home.

Two Kingston women, who were too shy to give their names, were also seeking to switch to better paying programmes.

"For bout 10 years, I have been going to Canada, but the money too small and my son is in first form now," one of the women who worked as a packer said. "I want to go to America where the money stronger."

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