by Derrick Scott
MICHIGAN – Their exemplary work ethic has created a high demand for Jamaican workers in the hospitality industry in the state of Michigan.
This was revealed by Jamaica’s Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson, as she toured Michigan establishments hosting Jamaican workers.
Addressing more than 200 Jamaican workers at the Grand Traverse Hotel, in Traverse City, as part of her July 14-19 official visit – her first to Michigan as minister – the Jamaican official explained that she was in the Great Lakes State on her annual visit to get a first-hand view of how the programme was working, and to reconnect with US legislators, employers, and Jamaican workers in an effort to grow the programme and expand the services.
The programme has been in operation for 76 years.
Minister Robinson further explained that because hoteliers have been eagerly requesting more Jamaicans, her Ministry was now in talks with the US authorities with a view to expanding the programme.
She added that the more than 475 Jamaican workers accounted for at least 50 per cent of the hospitality labor force in Traverse City, Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.
She further noted that the feedback received from the meetings with employers and workers regarding the success of the programme or areas requiring improvement are all valuable to the strategic growth plan.
“The Government of Jamaica views the programme as very vital,” she told the workers, reiterating how important the Ministry’s overseas work programme was to Jamaica and the economy, as well as to the employees and the US employers. She urged the workers to keep the Jamaican flag flying high as ambassadors of their country.
A unique seasonal tourist resort destination, the State of Michigan utilizes Jamaican workers from April to the first week in November each year.
The last time a Jamaican ministerial delegation visited, it was led by former Prime Minister Portia Miller-Simpson, twenty years ago when she was the Minister of Labour.
On Monday, the Minister visited and met with employees and employers of the Grand Traverse Hotel; then on Tuesday, visited Mackinac City and met with over 120 workers at the Best Western Dockside Hotel; and on Wednesday, she visited Mackinac Island and met with some 80 workers, and with management and senior staff.
On Thursday, Minister Robinson attended a town hall meeting with Jamaican workers, and the Mackinac Mayor Margaret Dodd is expected to be in attendance as well.
She is scheduled to visit Mission Point Hotel and Bay View Hotel. Minister Robinson and her delegation leave Michigan on Friday, July 19.
Accompanying the minister on this mission, the purpose of which also includes reconnecting with US legislators and employers, are Mrs. Collette Roberts Risden, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security; Mrs. Beatrice Rhoden, Advisor to the Minister; Ms. Lorna Young, administrator in the Overseas Work Programme; Mrs. Methelina Scarlett-Jones, Chief Liaison Officer for the Jamaica Central Labour Organisation (JCLO), based in Washington, D.C.; and Mr. Gladstone Moore, JCLO Liaison Officer for Michigan.