With the local economy under severe strain and stress and pressure mounting on Government to cut jobs, the Freundel Stuart administration has stepped up its efforts to find work for Barbadians overseas.
Following a recent visit to Washington DC, Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo has revealed that Government is actively pursuing opportunities under the US H2A Agricultural Work Programme.
In fact, she said today in a release issued by the Barbados Government Information Service this evening that her recent presentation to US-based employers was received with “much interest and enthusiasm”.
Under the H-2A programme employers or agents who meet specific regulatory requirements are allowed to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. However, they are required to file an I-129 form, petition for nonimmigrant worker, on a prospective worker’s behalf.
Barbados is currently included on the list of over 80 countries whose citizens are eligible to participate in the agricultural programme.
In the meantime, at least a dozen Barbadians are expected to find work on a Canadian pig farm.
During a recent courtesy visit on the Minister at her Warrens Office, Canadians Mike and Amy Cronin, the owners of Cronin Farms in Ontario, said they were looking for 12 to 15 people to look after their pigs and assist with general work on their farms over a two-year period.
As such, Byer-Suckoo assured them that her ministry would only select the “right” candidates” with “the right attitude”.
“At the end of the day . . . we do not want employers to stop looking at Barbados as a source country because we have sent the wrong individuals,” she told the Cronins, who also have farms in the US.
The Minister of Labour also pointed out that foreign agricultural programmes of this nature have provided good opportunities for Barbadian workers over the past 50 years.
Her comments came against the backdrop of concern over the general state of the Barbados economy, which is currently running on unsustainable deficit of eight per cent of its gross domestic product, while national unemployment is said to be in the ten per cent range. The island’s foreign reserves have also fallen to the lowest level in 14 years to $681 million at the end of December 2016, with former Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr DeLisle Worrell recently warning of the need for major spending cuts and an urgent need to stop printing money.