Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme, commonly referred to as the Canadian Farm Labour Programme, started as a private initiative in the early 60’s when Ontario farmers recruited Jamaican workers to work on their tobacco plantations. This approach proved to be disorganized and costly and in 1966, the Canadian government assumed control of the programme. The programme provided Canada with a cost efficient way of sourcing contractual agricultural workers on a seasonal basis, to meet the short-term demand of manual labour during the peak planting and harvesting seasons.
In the early years of the programme, Barbados, like most of the Caribbean, was a young, newly independent nation. Participation in the programme was seen as a great opportunity to acquire foreign exchange through remittances from the Barbadian workers that would be working in Canada. The program also has offered and still offers unemployed Barbadian workers employment opportunities in various provinces including Ontario and Nova Scotia and by extension an invaluable source of income. The programme has allowed many Barbadian workers to support their families through the compulsory home savings and to develop their knowledge and understanding of farming techniques.
In this programme, workers engage in a wide array of agricultural activities and deal mainly with fruits, vegetables and tobacco. Their tasks involve cultivating, pruning, spraying, irrigation, fertilization, harvesting, hand-thinning, grading etc.
The Canadian Farm Labour Programme is more than an employment opportunity but an amazing life experience as its participants forge valuable friendships and relationships within their Canadian communities. It presents an amazing an opportunity to temporarily live overseas and be exposed to different culture.
No qualifications are required for this programme. However, experience in agriculture and mechanical maintenance would be an asset.
KEY FEATURES OF THE PROGRAMME
The employer pays for the airfare and makes all the necessary travel arrangements.
The employer is responsible for providing clean living accommodations to the workers, without cost. These accommodations must satisfy the health and housing standards of the province in which the farm is located. It must also meet the expectations of the local liaison service, which represents the Government of Barbados in Canada.
The employer is responsible for providing appropriate meals to each worker at a cost that must not exceed CAD $ 7.00 (BBD $ 13.23). The worker could also choose to prepare his/her own meals. In this case, the employer is responsible for providing the cooking facilities, utensils and fuel without cost.
After five (5) consecutive hours of employment, each employee is entitled to a meal break of at least thirty (30) minutes and to two rest periods for ten (10) minutes in both mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Period of Employment & Working Hours
Under this programme, the period of employment can be no longer than eight (8) months nor less than 240 hours over six weeks or less. However, if an emergency situation arises, a specific exemption could be granted to the employer by the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), the agency responsible for administering this programme on behalf of the Government of Canada.
An employer may require a worker to be on probation during a trial period of seven (7) actual working days from the date of arrival at the farm. During this period, the employer cannot discharge the worker except for misconduct or refusal to work.
The average minimum work week is forty (40) hours. For every six consecutive days of work, an employee is entitled to one day of rest.
Wages & Deductions
The wages are paid weekly in Canadian dollars at a rate which is equal to the following, whichever is the greatest:
- The wage established by the law of the province within which the place of employment is located; or
- The rate determined annually by HRSDC to be paid for the type of agricultural work being carried out by the worker
- The rate being paid by the employer to his regular seasonal work force performing the same type of agricultural work.
Deductions to the wages are determined by law and by contract. These deductions include:
- A 25% remittance which is deducted and paid to Barbados’ liaison office in Canada. From this deduction, 5% is taken to pay the administrative costs of the programme and the remainder is transferred to the Ministry of Labour in Barbados. A further $16.10 for every $100 earned per week is then deducted for the social security. The rest of the remittance is then paid to the worker upon return to Barbados as home savings.
- The cost of meals provided to the worker by the employer, which, as mentioned before, must not exceed CAD $ 7.00 (BBD $ 13.23).
- An incidental costs incurred in relation to the employment of the worker. The size of this deduction is adjusted annually to take into account changing wage rates.
- Register for the programme at the National Employment Bureau (2nd Floor NIS Building, Fairchild Street, St. Michael. Tel. # 426-4450). Please note, the following would be required:
- Two (2) passport-sized photos (one signed by a Justice of the Peace, Minister of Religion etc.)
- Barbados National Identification Card
- Birth Certificate
- Heavy Duty/International License (asset)
- Applicants will be interviewed by a panel, led by the Labour Officer in charge of the programme.
- If selected for further consideration, each applicant must undergo a complete medical examination by a doctor assigned by the NEB.
- If one successfully passes the medical examination, the NEB would begin the documentation process for applying for a work permit from the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad. Additional documents required include:
- Clean Police Certificate of Character
- Valid Barbadian Passport
- Four (4) passport-sized photos
- Clean Police Certificate of Character
- Applicants would form the pool of workers awaiting placements in Canada. It should be noted that a Canadian employer could also request a particular individual for a vacancy based on previous experience with that employer.
- If the applicant is successfully placed in a vacancy, the work permit would be issued and the NEB would provide information on travel arrangements as made by the employer.
- Before departure, all persons in the programme must participate in a ‘Final Instructions’ session arranged by the NEB. Details about the job, travel, rules of conduct, liaison services in Canada etc would be provided. Individuals would also be given a chance to ask any questions. Counseling may also be provided in a wide array of topics ranging from managing one’s finances to conflict resolution.
- Before departure, all recruited workers must also sign the contract of employment.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- Can workers transfer from one farm to another?
Yes, with the worker’s consent and prior written approval from HRSDC/Service Canada and the Barbados Liaison Service in Canada. The employer and worker must sign a transfer contract.
- Do you require a work permit?
Yes, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) makes the final decision as to whether the worker will be allowed to enter and work in Canada. It issues work permits. The National Employment Bureau provides administrative assistance for the application of work permits for prospective employees.
- Who pays the airfare?
The employer pays for the round-trip airfare from Barbados to Canada and ground transportation to the place of work. (a portion of the cost is recovered through payroll deductions).
- Is housing provided?
Yes, free seasonal housing which has been approved by the relevant provincial body or private inspection service is provided for the workers.
- Is there an employment contract?
Yes, the worker must sign an employment contract outlining the duties, conditions, accommodation etc.
- What is the average duration?
Eight weeks to ten months.
- What is the pay structure?
Workers are paid around $10.25 per hour.
- What percentage is deducted for home savings?
Twenty percent (20%)