Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander have announced an overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, effectively confirming the growing abuse of the program and a reduction of wages.
“We will better prevent and detect abuse and penalize employers who abuse the program,” Kenney said. “We will severely sanction those who break the rules. We’ll better protect foreign workers and we’ll also recognize that Canada benefits from international mobility.”
Kenney said the changes announced Friday are intended to send employers a clear signal that abuse of the program will not be tolerated and that they must increase efforts to hire Canadians first.
The minister described the new measures “as bold, broad, ambitious, and balanced.”
The moratorium on the fast-food industry’s access to the program is lifted immediately in light of the new changes. The revamped program will bar employers from hiring foreign workers in regions where unemployment is high, it will put a cap on the number of workers employers can hire, include a more stringent screening process for employers to prove they need to hire a foreign worker over a Canadian one, and increase the number of spot checks in the workplace and fines for those who break the rules.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program will now be divided into two programs: One — still called the TFWP — will require that employers prove the need to hire a non-Canadian worker. The other, to be called the International Mobility Program, won’t.
Reforms to the program include:
- In regions where the unemployment rate is above six per cent. Employers will be barred from hiring low-wage temporary foreign workers.
- A cap of 10 per cent on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers employers can hire per work site by 2016. The cap will be gradually phased in, starting at 30 per cent effective immediately, then reduced to 20 per cent on July 1, 2015, and 10 per cent a year later in 2016.
- An increase in the number of inspections: one in four employers will be inspected each year. The government says it will add to the current pool of inspectors, bringing the number to about 60.
- Application fee employers must pay per worker increased to $1,000
- Fines of up to $100,000 for employers who abuse the program
- Additional funding for the Canada Border Services Agency
- Posting the names of employers who receive permission to hire foreign workers.
- Making public the number of positions approved through the program on a quarterly basis.
- Reducing the amount of time a temporary foreign worker can be employed in Canada, to two years from four.
The government said it received growing reports of abuses, with over 1,000 complaints filed through a tip line launched on April 6.
Kenney said he heard time and again of Canadian workers not even receiving a phone call back from potential employers in the fast-food industry. He said he expects the new measures to have a significant effect on some businesses, particularly on those in the fast-food sector.
He added that the government would be spending $14 million to fund two new labour market studies — a quarterly study on job vacancies and an annual survey on wage rates. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a group generally supportive of this government’s initiatives, said today’s announcement was “a gross overreaction to a handful of negative stories. Unless the federal government is prepared to force unemployed Canadians to move to take jobs they don’t want, these changes leave a huge gap for employers.”
NDP MP Pat Martin said today’s changes acknowledge that the program is broken but said they do little to fix it.
Liberal MP John McCallum wondered how the government would meet its commitment to increase the number of inspections without hiring significantly more inspectors.
Source: CBC News