A group of seasonal agriculture workers, who travel to Canada annually to work in that country’s farming industry, have threatened to sue the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development over its failure to facilitate their employment.
The threat was made yesterday in a letter sent to Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, yesterday morning, by attorney Gerald Ramdeen.
In the letter, Ramdeen claimed that the workers, who are part of the Commonwealth Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme, had a legitimate expectation that the ministry would provide assistance by helping facilitate the processing of police certificates of good character, medical examinations, and visa applications.
“By virtue of the substantive legitimate expectations that have occurred to these workers by the representations of the Ministry and by settled practice, these undertakings are enforceable in law,” Ramdeen said.
He accused the ministry of breaching its obligations under the programme and noted that the matter has been brought to the attention of Canada’s Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development, the Canadian ambassador, and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
“This is not only unlawful but pathetically unfortunate, having regard to the present state of economic activity, or better described, non-activity in our country,” he said.
Ramdeen repeated claimed that the programme was vital to the workers, who had difficulties finding employment opportunities locally.
“The salaries they earn are repatriated to this country to the benefit of not only their families but to the economy of T&T,” Ramdeen said.
In the letter, Ramdeen also noted that he was representing Schulyer Farms of Ontario, Canada, which had agreed to hire the workers.
Ramdeen claimed that the owner of the farm attempted to negotiate with the Government due to the critical role the workers play especially during harvest but was ignored and given vague answers.
Ramdeen noted that in the event that Baptiste-Primus fails to facilitate their requests, he would be forced to file a lawsuit over the issue.
“This is clearly a matter that should be amicably resolved. All the persons that I represent hold this view,” Ramdeen said, as he stated that litigation would be the last resort.
He reminded Baptiste-Primus that the issue was time-sensitive as their duties have to be performed at a particular time to avoid the wastage of the crops.
The letter was copied to both Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and National Security Minister Stuart Young, as his (Young) approval would be necessary to allow the workers to travel to Canada under ongoing travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the event, that their requests are facilitated the workers will be required to undergo mandatory quarantine in Canada for 14 days before they are allowed to work. Under the regulations, which govern the procedure, the workers will have to be paid during their quarantine period. (DA)