By Lincoln DePradine
A senior Black trade unionist believes that a shortage of skilled labour in the Ontario construction sector could be alleviated by recruiting workers from the Caribbean.
Chris Campbell, equity and diversity representative of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, would like an arrangement – similar to the long-running Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) – to be set up for the construction sector.
“This is nothing new,’’ said Campbell, commenting on people visiting Canada to be employed on a temporary basis in construction. “This is what’s happening with European folks. They come and they work and they make a livable wage; $45 an hour, plus benefits.’’
The SAWP allows Canadian employers to hire temporary foreign workers (TFWs), when Canadians and permanent residents are not available.
Employers can hire TFWs for a maximum period of eight months. Participating Caribbean countries in the SAWP are Jamaica; Trinidad & Tobago; Anguilla; Antigua & Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; Grenada; Montserrat; St Kitts & Nevis; St Lucia; and St Vincent & the Grenadines.
The idea of a program targeting Caribbean workers with trades’ skills was discussed at a meeting involving Caribbean diplomats in Toronto and members of the Carpenters’ Allied Workers Union (Local 27), where Campbell is vice president.
Also involved in the discussions were Canada’s immigration minister Sean Fraser and Francesco Sorbara, Liberal Party MP for Vaughan-Woodbridge, Campbell said Sunday at the annual Boonoonoonos Black History Month celebration of the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA). Local 27 of the Carpenters’ Union was the main sponsor of the event.
“We talked about the work shortage; we talked about solutions and how we can make this happen,’’ said Campbell, who also is a former director on the board of JCA.
“I’m trying to open it up entirely to folks of the Caribbean. This is the first step. Now, we’re going to be making the next step to see how we can do some kind of recruitment.’’
Campbell said an effort also will be made to share the information with Caribbean nationals already living in Canada, sharing with the requirements and benefits of joining the construction trade, where millions of dollars are being spent on projects such as the building of subway lines, housing and hospitals.