Urban MPs say their constituents overlooked for farm-work programme
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
TWO OPPOSITION legislators who represent constituencies in the urban areas stopped short of telling Labour Minister Derrick Kellier not to allocate them application forms for the farm-work programme, arguing that its almost impossible for their constituents to benefit.
Desmond McKenzie, member of parliament for the tough inner-city area of West Kingston, and Karl Samuda, who represents the constituency of North Central St Andrew, made their positions known during Tuesday's sitting of the House of Representatives.
According to McKenzie, as an urban member of parliament, he is placed "under great stress because you build up the hopes of your constituents by giving them these applications" and then they are not selected for the programme.
"I don't think it makes sense to give me 20 or 30 forms and when I give them out, nobody is going to benefit. The member of parliament comes under extreme pressure," McKenzie said.
Similarly, Samuda said the current system discriminates unfairly against persons in urban areas.
"If you don't intend genuine people from the inner city to get an opportunity, it is better that you focus your attention on those activities where there would be no discrimination against inner-city people who need opportunities," Samuda said.
He suggested that the farm-work programme be reconstructed to give preference to inner-city women to work in non-agricultural areas.
Kellier, who made a statement to the House on the farm-work programme, said the concern raised by urban MPs is a genuine one, saying "the persons within urban areas should be given the opportunity to look within their workforce to see if they can find (suitable persons), if they cannot find persons to fill the quota that they have been given, then the next time we will make the adjustment".
Kellier said while the Ministry of Labour does preselection of workers, who are then placed in a pool, it is the employer who does the selection from the pool.
"Once you get into the pool, you have an equal opportunity," Kellier said, while adding that it is up to the urban MPs to do a good selection so that those persons may get an opportunity to travel abroad on the programme.
Kellier said it is expected that no fewer than 2,000 new workers are to be sent to Canada this year on the farm-work programme.
Each rural MP is given the opportunity to recommend 40 persons while urban MPs are given a quota of 25 selections.