Canadians looking to hire foreign workers as nannies are having to face unexplained delays due to changes introduced to the caregiver program. The problems are exacerbated by poor communication from federal agencies, with some recruitment agencies reporting that no applications have been processed in the past four months.
Canada’s Live-in Caregiver program was a part of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, and was widely used by Canadians to hire nannies and other caregivers. It would usually take up to 6-8 months to hire a caregiver, but the recent changes to the program have lead to further delays and confusion.
Under the new rules, foreign care workers are no longer required to live in the homes of their employers. Other changes to the application process were also introduced in a bid to encourage more Canadian applicants for these jobs, following claims that the program had “mutated” into a family-reunification scheme. Now any family that is interested in hiring a foreign caregiver is required to show that there were no Canadian applicants available for the said job by applying for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
Once the family gets an approval on the LMIA, they can then apply for a work permit to hire a foreign caregiver for the job.
According to one family applying, he spent four weeks trying to find a Canadian nanny, but didn’t get a single application for the job. He then applied for an LMIA – twice, after the first application was lost by the government agency responsible.
When queried about the delays, Employment and Social Development Canada claims that in February, 80 percent of all LMIA applications received were processed within 30 days. However they were unable to provide LMIA processing times for just the caregiver program.
Some believe the latest changes to the caregiver program were an ill-conceived knee-jerk reaction to problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary
The previous Caregiver program has a long history of controversy including exorbitant placement fees charged to both caregiver and family, excessive delays in processing, abuse of caregivers and an inflexible system. In 2014 new rules took effect which created two separate streams of permanent residence (Caring for children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs) and placed annual quotas on the numbers of caregivers who can apply for permanent residence under each stream at 2750 for a total of 5500.
Quebec is seeking a delay on the application of changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, but the federal government does not appear to be willing to comply.
According to Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Kathleen Weil, changes to the program that were announced last June would make it harder for Quebec businesses to fill an urgent labour shortage with temporary foreign workers.
The new measures will come into effect April 30 and Quebec wants to negotiate terms that would better suit the local labour market.
Weil took issue with the shortening of the length of work permits for some workers, which she said would hurt industries such as welding and machining in Chaudières-Appalaches. A new 10 per cent cap on low-skilled temporary foreign workers on one company’s payroll would hinder the food sector, she added.
Several business leaders showed their support for Quebec’s position on the TFW program.
These reforms do not apply to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) as there are proven acute labour shortages in this industry.
The B.C. government has abruptly ended its provincial immigration program for the next three months, saying new federal limits on temporary foreign workers have caused an unmanageable flood of applicants seeking entry to Canada through British Columbia.
According to Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, no new applications will be accepted until July 2, giving her staff time to process a growing backlog while her ministry looks at what qualifications it will seek from those hoping to come to B.C. through the provincial nominee program (PNP). Some exceptions will be made in high-need categories such as health-care workers
Under the program, Ottawa allows the provinces limited control over immigration. This year, B.C. will grant permanent resident status to 5,500 immigrants to fill labour-market needs.
Applications to the provincial program increased after the federal government introduced tighter controls on its temporary foreign worker program. A year ago, B.C. could process a PNP application in 12 weeks; now the wait list is 13 months, and there are already more people in the queue than B.C. can admit this year.
Despite the provincial government warning that British Columbia faces a skills shortage with an anticipated construction boom in the north, many of the temporary foreign workers in B.C. are being hired for low-wage jobs in the hospitality industry. The federal government was forced to make changes after allegations surfaced last year that some employers, especially restaurants, were abusing the program.
Ottawa is phasing in limits on the number of temporary foreign workers that large- and medium-sized companies are permitted to hire and is promising more inspections of workplaces, bigger fines for companies that abuse the program and increased application fees for employers.
This is not the first time B.C. has frozen one of its immigration programs. In 2012, the province suspended a program after a suspicious surge in the number of business applicants for a category that promised a speedy visa in exchange for a $125,000 bond.
The fate of thousands of temporary foreign workers facing deportation beginning April 1 emerged as a high-stakes national issue, with small business urging Ottawa to let them stay and the federal government threatening to track down any who try to go underground.
Many low-skilled people who came to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are now expected to leave the country as a result of a clampdown by the Conservative government. While Ottawa has refused to provide details, it is estimated the numbers run into the tens of thousands.
As the rule of the four-year ban of re-entry took effect, the federal government warned temporary foreign workers who are due to leave that they will be dealt with swiftly if they try to go underground to avoid leaving Canada.
“Let there be no mistake: We will not tolerate people going ‘underground.’ Flouting our immigration laws is not an option, and we will deal with offenders swiftly and fairly,” Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre said in a statement.
The new policy was introduced on April 1, 2011 and requires any temporary foreign workers who have been in Canada for four years to leave. They are also barred from returning for four years under the “4-in-4-out” rule.
Approximately 70,000 workers currently in the country will have to leave, according to the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, which projected the estimates based on the number of work permits issued four years ago and foreign workers who had already been working in Canada before then.
The clampdown has prompted widespread complaints of unfairness and future chaos in business.
Some organizations have called for a temporary moratorium on the intake of foreign workers from abroad and a path to permanent residency for those, including the ones in low-skill and low-wage category, who are already here.
Chris Ramsaroop of the Justicia for Migrant Workers said, “Today’s decision to deport tens of thousands of migrant workers represents one of the most inhumane actions undertaken by the Conservative government during its years in power. Rather than provide permanent residency and the opportunity to continue to build our communities, the government has chosen to repeat the mistakes of the past by following what previous generations of elected officials have done: demonize, criminalize and dehumanize the same racialized migrant workers who have built our railways and built the wealth of this nation,” he told the Star.
In their statement, Alexander and Poilievre said, “Employers and foreign workers have known about the four-year time limit since 2011, when this policy was announced.
According to the parliamentary budget office reported last week, the number of temporary foreign workers (TFW) in Canada tripled between 2002 and 2012, but they still made up less than two per cent of the overall labour force. The report said an increasing number of foreign workers are filling skilled positions today as the percentage of low-skilled jobs has declined.
The PBO study looked at the role foreign workers played in the economy between 2002 and 2012.
Foreign workers can enter the labour market through either the international mobility program or the temporary foreign worker program, which came under fire last year after allegations surfaced about some employers, especially restaurants, abusing the program.
Employers who want to hire temporary foreign workers must get government approval under what is called a local market impact assessment. The assessment means the government generally knows the skill levels of the workers. However, almost 70 per cent of foreign workers are exempt from these assessments under the mobility program.
The report said 85 per cent of the foreign workers in low-skilled positions were in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario and were concentrated in smaller communities.
“Alberta’s share has increased significantly since 2002, while Ontario’s has declined by almost 15 percentage points,” the report said. “Interestingly, the relative importance of foreign workers in the labour force appears to be higher in small centres than in large census metropolitan areas.”
The study said a significant number of foreigners work on farms, in restaurants or as babysitters or nannies, jobs on the low end of the pay scale. Employers don’t seem willing to raise wages in these areas, so they are forced to rely on either unemployed domestic workers with few skills or foreign workers, the report said.
The characteristics of the foreign work force have changed since the 2009 recession. Before then, most of the growth was in low-skilled jobs.
“Since then, the number of workers in low-skilled positions has declined by 20 per cent, while the number in skilled positions has increased 20 per cent. As a result, by 2012, the majority of foreign workers were in skilled positions.”
The Conservative government introduced new rules in June to limit the number of foreign workers that large- and medium-sized companies are permitted to hire in a bid to ensure Canadians are first in line for jobs.
Liberal critic John McCallum said the report confirms that the program has driven down middle class wages and displaced Canadian workers.
“We must restore the program back to its original purpose: to fill acute job shortages when qualified Canadian workers absolutely cannot be found,” McCallum said in a statement.
A new report by the Canada West Foundation warns that the reduction in the number of temporary foreign workers allowed into Canada will only have a slight effect on provinces with high unemployment, and a disproportionately negative effect on provinces with low unemployment.
From July 2015, employers can have no more than 20% of their workforce as low-wage temporary foreign workers and this must be reduced to 10% from July 2016. But enforcing these limits across the board is unfair to western provinces, says the report, with Alberta set to bear the brunt of the changes.
The new rules have set a national target of 16,278 fewer temporary foreign workers entering the country by 2016. Employment and Social Development Canada reports that more than half of this reduction is expected to be borne by Alberta alone, with the province required to reduce new entrants by 8,407 by 2016.
Alberta’s high reliance on temporary foreign workers is set to make the impact of the reduction more pronounced in the province. On the other hand, Ontario must reduce their temporary foreign worker entries by 1,369 – one-sixth the number expected from Alberta, even though Ontario has a higher jobless rate and would benefit more from fewer TFWs arriving.
“Seventy-five per cent of the reduction in entries will come from the west,” says Farahnaz Bandali, an analyst at the Canada West Foundation. “By making everyone subject to the same cap, the West will be disproportionately hurt.”
With Alberta already facing a shortage of local workers, reducing the number of TFWs won’t necessarily result in more Canadians being hired.
“So the changes will not do what they are supposed to do, which is to encourage employers to hire more Canadians,” says Janet Lane, of the Canada West Foundation.
The report warns that the changes could have severe consequences. “Without enough workers, businesses could be forced to have shorter hours, service will suffer, workers will be stressed and businesses could shrink. Some may be forced out of business altogether.”
“In the short term, the loss of foreign workers will leave employers with limited options. Not all unemployed people are willing to take a job that does not interest them or that they are not good at. Over the medium to long term, employers may find ways to adapt by bringing under- represented populations – such as Aboriginal or disabled people – into the workforce. Governments may need to offer training and support to make this happen,” says the report.
Source: Edmonton Journal
Thousands of temporary foreign workers in low-skill jobs who have been in Canada for over four years will have to leave from April 1, when the first possible four-year limit on their stay comes into effect since its introduction in 2011.
Under the old rules, temporary foreign workers (TFWs) were allowed to re-apply and continue working with their existing Canadian employers. But ever since the 2011 rule change the clock has been ticking down on TFWs, with a four-year cumulative duration limit imposed on their work permits. Moreover once the workers leave Canada, they will not be allowed back in as a TFW for an additional four years.
The rule has been especially harsh on TFWs who have been in Canada for over 15 years in some instances but are now being made to leave their homes and jobs in Canada.
A rush of TFWs leaving Canada is around the corner, employers and lawyers predict, with the fishing and agricultural industries set to be the most adversely affected.
The $900-million Canadian mushroom industry is one such sector where TFWs are doing jobs which Canadian citizens are unable or unwilling to do.
“Frankly, it’s a crisis with us because we’re losing workers who don’t want to leave, who have proven themselves to be valuable, and deserve an opportunity to apply for citizenship,” says Bill Stevens, the CEO of Mushroom Canada.
Stevens is calling for a reprieve, saying the industry will face substantial decreases in production if it isn’t granted.
“The whole thing amounts to a major decrease in the production of our commodity, and they’re going to suffer from it, they’re going to lose markets, and especially now when the markets are really very strong,” Stevens said.
Stevens is urging for a rethink and is calling for low skill temporary foreign workers to be given a way to obtain permanent residency, similar to the one on offer in Alberta, which was allowed a special transitional scheme where some TFWs are being given more time to become permanent residents.
The transitional measure in Alberta offers a reprieve to some TFWs as they wait for their permanent residence applications to be processed, according to Employment Minister Jason Kenney.
Immigration experts say the majority of TFWs work in fisheries, farms and restaurants, jobs that Canadians don’t want, as indicated by the high turnover of Canadian employees in those kinds of jobs. They argue that higher wages are not the solution and that the presence of TFWs increases productivity at the businesses and benefits the economy overall by creating spinoff jobs.
Alberta’s nominee program has been criticized for its lack of transparency while choosing temporary foreign workers who would be allowed to stay in Canada permanently.
The province had used a confidential list of 34 occupations last year to determine which workers will stay on. According to Clarizze Truscott of the Temporary Foreign Workers Support Coalition, Alberta should have been transparent about its selection of immigrants, and that keeping this information confidential was highly unfair to employers and workers who had been hoping to get selected to stay on. “If there is no transparency, the question is, is the government deciding on the basis of who lobbied most?” asks Truscott, who believes that the government should disclose if they prefer only to keep skilled workers and their reasons behind choosing those particular occupations.
According to the Department of Jobs, Skills Training and Labor, the list “was merely a temporary internal guideline” to help them choose the final 1,200 spots in the provincial nominee program of 2014. The department said that the list had been drafted “to ensure more industries could benefit”, and confirmed that some occupations such as welders, transport truck drivers, machine operators, and construction managers had received more attention last fall.
The list was posted on the department’s website and discovered by some temporary foreign workers who had been seeking information on whether they stand any chance of being selected for permanent residency under the provincial nominee program that accepts 5,500 candidates every year.
Following changes to the temporary foreign worker program, the provincial government agreed to provide one-year extension to a select group of about 1,000 TFWs or more.
The Department of Jobs, Skills Training and Labor has said that for 2015 it will choose the 5,500 nominees on the basis of three categories: labor market information, evidence of high levels of job shortages and industry general averages in recent years. “We remain steadfast in our position that Canadians are hired first,” said a spokesperson of the department.
The internal list of 2014’s provincial nominee program included the following “priority” occupations: farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers, machine operators and laborers in food and beverage processing, industrial meat cutters, pipefitters, transport truck drivers, welders, plasterers and drywallers, steamfitters, sprinkler system installers, technicians and drafting technologists.
In addition, the list also included academic occupations like university professors and lecturers along with several civil, mechanical, petroleum and chemical engineering jobs. Nurse aides, orderlies, licensed practical nurses, and patient service associates made it under the health care category. Other occupations on the list were machine tool operators, construction estimators, sawmill machine operators, material handlers, and electrical power line and cable workers, along with automotive service technicians, light duty cleaners and hotel front desk clerks.
Universities have persuaded the federal government to relax new rules on how they hire temporary foreign workers An agreement was struck earlier this week between postsecondary institutions and the federal government which will give schools flexibility with regards to meeting the new rules that were imposed on employers looking to hire high-wage workers in June 2014.
Schools will no longer have to submit a plan on how they will transition jobs filled by highly paid foreign workers to Canadian citizens. Instead, universities and colleges will report to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), their national organization.
Universities are the only sector that will be allowed to be self-governing in meeting some of the requirements of the temporary foreign worker program. In most cases, universities receiving TFW permits to hire foreign academics are actually planning to employ them in permanent jobs, with the TFW program simply being a faster way to bring professors or researchers to Canada.
According to Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president and COO of the AUCC, “Academic specialties can be very specific and the flexibility of being able to hire from around the world is important, as are the global connections that academics make.”
The changes to the temporary foreign worker program introduced in June primarily affected low-wage labour, but the government also added regulations for those jobs that pay the same as or higher than the median provincial wage.
Employers offering those positions must now have a transition plan in place if they hope to receive a positive labour market impact assessment. The agreement between the AUCC and the government means that universities and colleges can choose not to file that transition plan with the federal government but will still be required to submit information about any Canadians who applied for the positions.