KINGSTON (JIS) — Trained household helpers in search of employment can now travel freely within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region.
They are among five new categories of workers entitled to free movement after Jamaica amended the CARICOM Free Movement of Skilled Persons Act last year. The other categories of workers are nurses, teachers, artisans with a Caribbean vocational qualification, and holders of associate degrees or comparable qualifications.
Head, Trade Agreements Implementation and Coordination Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, David Prendergast, says the domestic worker category, which is still in the early stages of implementation, includes persons with a Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) or equivalent certification.
“This is still in the process of being fully implemented by Jamaica. It is in our legislation, but domestic workers must obtain a Caribbean Vocational Qualification issued by HEART,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Prendergast points out that previously, only graduates of universities, artistes, musicians, sportspersons, media workers, nurses, and teachers were eligible to work freely throughout CARICOM.
He says that while the nurse and teacher categories are easy to understand, there is “sometimes confusion” about persons under the artisan category. He explains that an artisan, based on a CARICOM agreed definition, is a skilled trade person, a craftsman or worker who has obtained an approved national vocational certificate or a Caribbean Vocational Qualification issued by HEART Trust/NTA. “The artisan must obtain the CVQ to apply to move,” he emphasises.
Mr. Prendergast adds that craft and related trade workers, including building workers, metal and machinery workers, electrical workers, food processing workers and plant and machinery operators are eligible for movement under this category.
“It must be understood that free entry and stay, especially if you are going as a visitor, where you should be guaranteed a six-month entry, does not automatically confer on you the right to work and that in order to take up employment, you must go through the Skills Certificate route or apply for a work permit if you fall outside of the necessary categories,” he points out.
Mr. Prendergast, who is responsible for coordinating the implementation of Jamaica’s obligation under the CSME and the economic partnership agreements, says a person wishing to move to another country as a skilled CARICOM national, must first apply for and obtain a CARICOM Certificate of Recognition of Skills Qualification (CARICOM Skills Certificate).
A Project Management Consultant tells JIS News that she had to acquire a Skills Certificate while in Guyana before returning to work in Jamaica.
The CARICOM national, who is originally from Barbados, says she was recruited from Jamaica to work at the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana, having completed her studies at the University of the West Indies.
“When I left Jamaica I had an exemption for a work permit, because I am a graduate of the University of the West Indies. However, at the end of my stint at CARICOM, the whole regime had changed, so in order for me to come back to Jamaica and seek employment, I needed a skills certificate,” she notes, adding that it took three days to obtain the certificate.
Asked about her experience at the airport when she arrived in Jamaica, the Consultant says the immigration officers were courteous and were aware of the Skills Certificate.
“I did not have any problems, as the immigration officers seemed to be well briefed. They looked at the Skills Certificate and then they placed a six-month stamp in my passport, so I could stay in Jamaica for six months and instructed me to go through the procedure, to allow me to get the stamp in my passport to be legal in Jamaica,” she adds.
Jamaica is one of the CARICOM member states that is showing strong compliance in the CSME. The country began implementing the CSME in 2006 after the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973, which gave birth to CARICOM.
Among the changes brought about by the CSME is the abolition of the work permit, the introduction of the Skills Certificate and the definite entry for six months in a member state.
“An overall study done on the CSME regime across the region, indicates that we are 71 per cent compliant, meaning that we are largely, as a region, compliant, but there is more work to be done on the part of the participants in the CSME regime,” says Mr. Prendergast. The study was done in 2009 by the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat.
To date, he says, Jamaica has attained a functional level of legislative and administrative compliance with all five regimes of the CSME, namely: the free movement of skills, goods, services, the right of establishment and free movement of capital.
He notes that the CSME, which was conceptualised at the 10th meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in July 1989, in Grand Anse, Grenada, was the culmination of a vision for a more unified and integrated Caribbean Community.
Some of the objectives of the CSME are full employment; full exploitation of factors of production; competitive production, leading to greater variety and quantity of products and services to trade with other countries, resulting in improved standards of living, work and sustained economic development.
Outlining the steps Jamaica has taken to demonstrate compliance since signing the Revised Treaty, Mr. Prendergast points out that in addition to the Skills Certificate, the country has also introduced the CARICOM line at immigration points, the CARICOM passport, the common entry and departure form, and a CSME Complaint Form at the airports.
Despite the successes of the CSME, Mr. Prendergast tells JIS News that there are challenges, and that the regional integration movement is still evolving.
“The regional integration process is not a single event, it’s a process…so there will be challenges, but we are working on them, particularly where they affect our nationals,” he says.