One hundred and sixteen farmworkers left the island today (June 12), for the United States, under the Seasonal Work Programme between Jamaica and the United States.
The batch, who all returning workers, will be dispatched to the Gebbers Farm in Washington, where they will be reaping apples.
The send-off ceremony was held at the Ministry of Labour’s Overseas Employment Services Centre in downtown Kingston, on Thursday (June 11).
State Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Zavia Mayne, said the programme is an excellent example of the long-standing bond and collaboration between both countries.
“We are appreciative of our US employers and are grateful that they continue to depend on us to send them motivated, hard-working and reliable workers. Without them, we would not be able to benefit from this programme, and we would like to avail ourselves of this opportunity,” he said.
As a result of the programme, the State Minister noted that many of the Jamaican workers have been able to improve their standard of living, educate their children and move their families out of poverty.
Additionally, he said on a national level, it has also helped to reduce unemployment, particularly in the rural areas; reduce poverty; increase remittances; and expose farmers to modern agricultural production methods.
Turning to the farmworkers, Mayne encouraged them to continue to do well, as the fact that they are returning is a testament to their hard work.
He also implored them to follow the safety measures that will be put in place by their employer.
“Your employer will be implementing certain protocols and guidelines to secure your safety and protection (from COVID-19) while on the farm. I urge you to cooperate with all safety measures you are given,” Mr. Mayne said.
Meanwhile, United States Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Donald Tapia, said the programme represents a “win-win” situation for everyone.
He added that the programme demonstrates how the needs and skills of two countries can combine to produce a powerful partnership with results, adding that it not only supports food security in the US, but globally.
Tapia said even though visa processing is closed all over the US because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Department of State has determined that the work on the programme is critical and must continue.
“We here at the Embassy in Kingston and our partners in Washington will continue to work with you to maintain the processing capacities and capabilities, combat fraud and protect farmworkers, while keeping in mind that the benefits that the American worker is entitled to, you are also entitled to as well,” he said.
The Ambassador also praised the workers for their continued hard work, noting that they do make a difference on the farms where they are employed.