The status of Canada’s temporary foreign workers is back in the news with their expected exodus on April 1. Many of those leaving are likely employees of franchises in the food service and hospitality industry.
In April 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada implemented a four-year limit for TFWs in Canada. Not all foreign workers are subject to this limit, but those who are can only work in Canada for up to four years at a time. After this, they have to leave the country and cannot re-apply for another work permit until at least four years have passed.
The program and its four-year cap came under fire last year following media coverage and public outrage over perceived abuses by employers, including allegations that TFWs were displacing Canadians and being paid less than their Canadian counterparts.
The most immediate issue for franchises is where they will find replacement staff when many of their workers leave in a few days. The government’s hope is that unemployed Canadians will fill the jobs, reinforcing its intent that TFWs only be accessed as a last resort when there are truly no Canadians available for the job.
The office of the parliamentary budget officer recently stated that a lack of information on labour demand and supply across Canada resulted in its inability to determine if Canada’s employers really need TFWs to fill low-skilled job vacancies.
It is a known fact that there are regions across the country with high unemployment rates, so can the food service industry match job vacancies with the unemployed population? Employers have said that low-skilled vacancies, particularly in food service, are nearly impossible to fill with Canadians in the long-term.
A 2014 report from the Canada West Foundation says that it might be a mistake to assume that someone who is unemployed is necessarily willing to work in these positions. Canadians are seeking different, higher paying positions. Even youth willing to take the roles don’t stay long.
While the effects of the work permit cap on employers will only been seen in the coming months and years, it is certain that overhauls to immigration law are forcing employers to address their needs without long-term foreign workers.