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Agricultural workers to be allowed Caricom Freedom To Work

Agricultural workers to be allowed Caricom Freedom To Work

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SEARCHLIGHT welcomes last week’s announcement by Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley that agricultural workers may soon become eligible to move across and work in any CARICOM country without the requirement of a work permit.

This followed a meeting of CARICOM’s Prime Ministerial subcommittee on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) held in Barbados. Prime Minister Mottley said the meeting agreed to send a recommendation to a special meeting of the Heads of Government to be held in Trinidad later this year to expand the category of workers who are entitled to move across the region and work under the provisions of the CARICOM Skills Certificate.

This expansion will cover agricultural workers and if accepted, they will become the 11th such category to be exempted from work permit requirements. Already the exemption covers graduates, holders of recognized associate degrees, media workers, artistes, musicians, sports persons, artisans, qualified nurses, qualified teachers, and household domestics possessing the CARICOM Vocational Qualification (CVQ).

The decision to add the region’s agricultural workers to this group was based on (1) the recognition of the importance of food security to the region, “especially in these difficult and turbulent times”, according to Prime Minister Mottley; and (2) following the realization of the damage that climate change, hurricanes and earthquakes can do to disrupt the whole agricultural production and distribution cycle.

Caribbean agricultural workers, like the rest of the people of the CARICOM states, continue to cherish the idea of One Caribbean, a space where our citizens have freedom of movement but have been frustrated by narrow-minded politicians and selfish interest. As the agricultural landscape changes, and individual countries are affected in one way or another, they would like to be able to feel free to deploy their skills where there is demand.

The opening up of the region to them is not only in their interests, but that of the region as a whole. Thus, while for one reason or another, farmers in a particular territory may face labour shortages, it will mean that agricultural workers can be recruited from other countries. A country like Haiti for instance, a supplier of agricultural labour to the Dominican Republic under far from desirable conditions, is sure to benefit. It can now supply its agricultural workers in CARICOM in far more respectable and humane circumstances.

It is to be hoped that CARICOM leaders will not only approve of the recommendation but also speed up other measures to make the region truly one for the region’s peoples.

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