Several Jamaicans could miss out on an opportunity for temporary jobs in the United States as a number of American companies have decided to exclude Jamaica from the annual work programme.
The Sunday Gleaner has so far conformed that at least 26 US firms have signalled their intention to avoid Jamaicans from their annual H2B petitions because of losses suffered following a recent attempt by a local employment agency to scam persons selected to be part of the annual work programme.
Co-founder of US Americans, attorney-at-law John Gallow, said that the decision by the American firms will result in more than 300 Jamaicans missing out on an opportunity to work overseas in non-agricultural areas, such as in the hotel industry and as landscapers.
US Americans had contracted the local employment agency to arrange the processing and pick-up of 62 passports on behalf of the Jamaicans in March, but despite receiving payment, the passports were not returned until weeks later, following the intervention of the police.
"The owners (of the US firms) told us that they have nothing bad to say about Jamaican workers' job performance or work ethic (but) the two-month late arrival of the Jamaicans has cost them great financial losses, the loss of irretrievable contracts, and an undeserved bad name in the communities," said Gallow.
"While the American government has succeeded in weeding out and imprisoning H2B visa scammers and crooks, these same predators still thrive in Jamaica," added Gallow, who has been connecting Jamaicans with oversees companies since 1988.
He said that his clients had already selected the Jamaicans they wanted to employ. The prospective employees were instructed to pay a US$190 consulate fee and an additional US$100 for the services rendered by the employment agency.
The employment agency was to drop off both the fee and the 62 passports at the US Embassy in Kingston and then make arrangement with a courier-service provider for delivery of the passports, which it would return to the selected workers.
But after collecting approximately US$18,000, the operator of the employment agency went missing with the money and the passports.
"Weeks passed by and the workers were getting very scared because nothing was happening, and we notified the consulate and they said they never received the passports," said Gallow.
According to Gallow, after six weeks of not hearing from the owner of the employment agency and with pressure mounting, he and two associates came to Jamaica on April 23. They visited the company and met scores of angry persons who handed their money to the employment agency.
Gallow said that while this particular employment agency was not licensed, the owner also worked at his wife's employment agency, which is registered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
It was at this second company that detectives found him shortly after Gallow visited the Half-Way Tree Police Station to make a formal report. After initially denying that he collected the money, the operator finally confessed to misappropriating the funds.
Gallow said that one of his clients met them at the police station and decided to pay US$6,000 to process the documents for the 11 Jamaicans he was recruiting for his company. The client also told the operator of the agency that he would drop the matter if he was repaid the US$6,000.
That has since been repaid, but Gallow said that the remaining US$10,500 has not yet been repaid.
He said that he called the Ministry of Labour to report the matter, but he was told that it is only responsible for licensed oversees employment agencies.
All 62 workers are now in the US and have been reimbursed by their employers, but Gallow is concerned about the negative reputation Jamaica is developing oversees as a result of the increasing employment scams.
"Jamaicans are their own worst enemies at times, and when I say Jamaicans, I am talking about the manipulators, the facilitators, the people who just want to make their money fast and they would just take advantage of taking the bread out of somebody's children's mouth. They couldn't care less about that," he lamented.