The newly formed P.E.I. based Maritime Seafood Coalition of Canada’s Atlantic fishing industry has requested the federal government to exempt the fishing industry from the new temporary foreign worker program restrictions. The coalition claims the industry will face major cutbacks as a result of the latest changes to the temporary foreign worker program, with lobster processing potentially falling by as much as 25% this year if the industry can’t find enough employees.
Nat Richard of Westmorland Fisheries in Cap-Pelé and a member of the coalition says almost half of the workers at his plant are TFWs, but under the new rules they will have to be cut down to 10% of the workforce by 2017. According to Richard, the changes will only make the situation worse since the industry has been facing labor shortages for several years as it is.
The latest changes to TFW rules have cause seafood processors and fishermen’s associations throughout the region to form the Maritime Seafood Coalition in order to pressure the federal government to reverse the changes.
Ian MacPherson of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association says the coalition would like fish plants to be given the same exemption on TFWs as the agricultural industry.
“We’re hoping we can get some more flexibility with the federal government on some of these changes so that we’re not losing economic opportunity,” says McPherson.
But Minister of Employment and Social Development Pierre Poilievre insists that the fishing industry will still be able to access TFWs “provided they can demonstrate that no qualified Canadians were available.”
“The seafood industry should employ hard working Canadians first,” Poilievre said in a statement. “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is intended as a last resort when employers are facing short-term skills and labor shortages, and only when qualified Canadians are not available.”
Richard says the coalition members are always looking for local people to hire but without much success. Hiring local workers is their preference, he said, but they are having to resort to bringing in foreign workers even though they cost significantly more.
“They’re paid exactly the same rates as Canadians. It’s very costly in terms of processing — $1,000 per application, we have to fly these people in here … insurance coverage — we don’t do this because it’s cheap,” said Richard.
“We do it because we are desperate for more workers and that’s been really a lifeline for the industry over the last five years.”
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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.
From 1 April 2015, a change to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program could see some migrant workers refused work permits. The change should be scrapped because it would force an exodus of foreign workers from B.C., says an advocate.
On April 1, 2011, the federal government introduced legislation known as the “four in and four out” rule, limiting how long some temporary foreign workers could work in Canada to four years. The first temporary foreign workers to whom the rule applies could reach their four-year limit on April 1, 2015.
After that, they must wait another four years, either outside Canada or in Canada as a visitor or student, before they can be granted a fresh work permit. Previously, temporary foreign workers who came to Canada under the low-skilled stream could reapply to continue working for their Canadian employer.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has made an exception for TFWs approaching their four-year limit in Alberta, offering a bridging permit if they applied for permanent residency under the Provincial Nominee Program by July 1, 2014. Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney has said Ottawa is willing to extend similar measures to other provinces.
CIC lists several situations in which workers may be exempt from the four year rule including:
- Management and professional workers, including spouses and dependants
- Workers exempt due to international agreements, Canadian interests, self-support, humanitarian reasons
- Workers doing jobs which do not require a work permit
- Permanent resident applicants who have received a positive selection decision or approval in principle
- Provincial nominees applying for an employer-specific work permit
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
The effect of this policy will substantially add to the numbers of undocumented immigrants in Canada. There are currently approximately 150,000-200,000 undocumented illegal immigrants in Canada.
On April 1, 2015, the Canadian government will launch a new industry. Citizenship and Immigration Canada will begin manufacturing “illegal immigrants.”
Four years ago, on April 1, 2011, the Conservative cabinet passed a regulation known as the “4-in, 4-out” rule, requiring all temporary foreign workers who have been in the country for four years or longer to leave, and remain outside Canada for at least four years. As of April 1, then, those still here will be classified as illegal.
In theory, a temporary foreign worker can apply to transition to permanent resident status within those four years in Canada, but in practice, those designated as “low wage” will generally not qualify for this. A few provinces including Manitoba and Alberta have used their limited scope of authority to nominate “low-wage” workers for permanent resident status, but the number of cases in which this has occurred are small.
So by April 1, 2015, all temporary foreign workers who arrived on or before April 1, 2011 are expected to leave the country. Some, however, are expected to remain living and working in Canada without legal status. We know this because that is what has happened from the mid-1940s to the present, in every country in the world that has run a mass guest-worker regime.
This is what any competent Citizenship and Immigration bureaucrat knew and probably told the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in 2006, when the government decided to dramatically expand and under-regulate the temporary foreign worker program, and again in 2011 when the government instituted the “4-in, 4-out” rule.
Temporary foreign workers overstay their visas and go underground for various reasons. Their families abroad may depend on their remittances to subsist. They may have been exploited by rapacious “recruiters” and/or unscrupulous employers. Returning home empty-handed and possibly indebted is not only stigmatizing, it can be dangerous.
Some workers may even have felt at home in Canada, gradually becoming potential members of the society where they live, work and pay taxes. Some Canadians may consider the government’s guest-worker regime to be misguided and believe it should not continue. But terminating it will not resolve the dilemma of those temporary foreign workers who are already here and who are the targets of the “4-in, 4-out” rule.
It is common knowledge that some sectors of the U.S. economy have become dependent on undocumented workers, of which there are an estimated 11 million. Some employers find them a desirable work force precisely because their deportability ensures that they will “work hard and work scared.” These employers are also known to wield their political influence accordingly.
Migrants without legal status are also easy targets for vilification. The slide from “illegal immigrant” to “criminal” in popular discourse is easy. A government that is looking to supplement the bogus refugee, the marriage fraudster and the foreign terrorist with a new category of bad immigrant and a new excuse to get tough on non-citizens might find it convenient to add “illegal immigrants” to the roster. The government’s role in illegalizing these migrants may escape notice.
On March 31, temporary foreign workers will go to bed as lawfully employed, hard-working, tax-paying residents of Canada, and wake up the next day as illegal immigrants.
Source: National Post
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
Illegal immigrants who are currently employed in Canada could be given temporary work permits by the Canadian government. Those who remain in good standing could apply for permanent residence after a period of 12 to 24 months.
Almost a quarter of Canada’s illegal immigrants could make use of such a scheme and bring in significant tax revenue. This could represent some $150 million in direct annual taxes and ER contributions in the first year alone. Plus, these individuals would eventually be able to sponsor their immediate family members and this would further increase income taxes, ER payroll taxes and HST consumption tax expenditures far beyond the income tax revenues.
After allowing flexibility to Canadian universities in the temporary foreign worker rules, the federal government is now being pressed by the video game industry for some concessions in the required conditions for hiring foreign workers, arguing that the restrictions are hurting their businesses.
Canada’s video game industry employs more than 17,000 people. The industry’s wages are said to be higher than average and 40% or more of their employees hold a university degree, implying that a large number of their work force belong to “highly-skilled” category. “We should not be treated the same as some other industries that bring in low-skilled workers. We are at the cutting edge of what’s being done. People that we bring in are highly skilled, they are some of the best in the world and we fight for them. The more hurdles we have, the more chance we have of losing them to some of the companies in Asia,” says Martin Carrier, studio head at Warner Bros. Games Montréal.
According to the video game firms, the new rules depict the mistrust of the government towards employers and will make it difficult for them to hire highly-skilled foreign workers, who are critical to their business. “There has to be a level of trust … knowing that we invest a lot of money to bring outsiders into the country. We’ve done our due diligence and if we are going to put thousands of dollars behind a person just to move them here, it’s a worthwhile hire and we should not be facing additional hurdles from the administrative side,” says Carrier.
There are approximately 70 Canadian academic programs where game developers learn their skills. However, gaming companies argue that despite their efforts to hire local game developers from Canadian academic institutions, their industry still suffered from an unemployment rate of under 3%, making it necessary for them to hire foreign specialists. “Of the new entry-level people we hire, we know that 97% are Canadians or from Canadian universities. The issue starts at the intermediate or senior realm,” says Jayson Hilchie, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada.
French multinational company Ubisoft started its branch in Toronto after its Montreal branch grew to 3,000 employees. Ubisoft says that for certain projects, they need to hire from abroad, with almost a third of their employees being foreign hires. Ubisoft has also been offering co-op programs, in which they send their new employees overseas to get international experience. “We depend on more senior people to come here and train more junior people … If someone takes too much time to bring on board, we have to decline the work,” says Alex Parizeau, managing director of Ubisoft Toronto.
According to a parliamentary report of last year, the time and resources spent in foreign hiring had increased after the government shut down the fast-track immigration routes and told employers to prove they had made sufficient efforts to hire Canadian workers before starting to look abroad. The new rules require companies that offer median provincial wage or more to submit a plan on how they would transfer these positions to Canadian workers. In addition more stringent conditions have been imposed on companies that transfer workers with specialized skills and knowledge from abroad.
However, Mary Sorrenti, a vice-president at Game Pill believes that the new immigration rules will encourage the gaming industry to provide an opportunity to new graduates “to jump ahead in their careers”.
“Even though the traditional experience may not be that strong, a lot of these students started programming at a very young age. … Near term we have to look at creative solutions,” she said.
Even the gaming companies agree that they prefer to have Canadian employees as they are less expensive to hire and more likely to stay. “Recruiting and relocating of highly skilled workers is extremely expensive and procedures are long and arduous,” says Deirdre Ayre, studio head of Other Ocean. However, it’s the skills shortage that has led the industry to hire from abroad, and complicating the hiring procedures was not going to help. “There is no time for complicated processes or people will simply go elsewhere,” she says.
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.
In June last year many changes were made to Canada’s temporary foreign worker (TFW) program in an attempt to address the concern that foreigners were taking away jobs from the Canadian people. As a result of these changes, several foreign workers now face an April 1 deadline to leave Canada, with their employers scrambling to find suitable replacements to fill in for them.
Experts believe that overhauling of TFW program might benefit a few regions in Canada, however it is most likely going to harm Alberta’s economy. In an attempt to soften the effects of the harsh measures, the employment ministry offered a minor reprieve to the program, allowing a one-time work permit extension for certain temporary foreign workers in Alberta. This exemption will be provided to those temporary workers who had made their applications under the Alberta Nominee Program before July 1, 2014, and meet the permanent residency requirements.
This adjustment will allow employers to retain some of their employees who had been working for them for the past four years, thus averting a looming labor shortage crisis. However, even though this measure may provide some respite to employers in Alberta, it fails to address the long-term need of businesses to find a consistent and reliable pool of low-skilled employees.
For instance, according to the revised rules of the TFW program, the employers will have to limit the numbers of temporary foreign workers to 10% of their workforce, which implies that the above exemption might not apply to many ‘waiting’ permanent residents who would therefore not be counted as TFWs despite belonging to low wage category.
Moreover, many low-skilled workers are in service jobs, while some are employed in high-demand jobs like driving trucks. For all of them, the Alberta Immigration Nominee Program is the only way to gain permanent residency, however, it is very likely that only those who are in high demand jobs or high skilled jobs and have strong language skills will qualify for the work permit extensions. Thus despite the reprieve, many TFWs will be leaving Canada from 1st of April, forcing Alberta’s employers to search for people who are willing to do the low-paying jobs of serving food and cleaning. While this leaves the door open for many Canadians to take up these jobs, it remains to be seen how many are willing to do so and therefore fill the urgent requirements of the businesses.
The figures for 2013 show 40,471 TFWs working in Alberta across different occupations. 75% of TFWs who entered Alberta in 2013 were working in low-wage positions. According to the new rules, Alberta can accept only up to 5,500 provincial nominees annually. There would be thousands of applications for this annual quota, from which the government of Alberta will have to choose suitable candidates for both low-skilled jobs that don’t find many Canadian takers as well as for high demand and highly skilled jobs. This will be an arduous task, and whatever the outcome, is likely to adversely affect Alberta’s businesses.
Immigrations experts feel that the new rules may not be viable for Alberta’s economy and the federal government may end up having to take further steps in the coming months to fill the gaps in the labor market that may emerge in the near future.
How the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Moved from Being a Nimble Program to One that Requires a Complete Revamp
According to popular perception, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, currently under intense Parliamentary scrutiny following a series of program abuse allegations by the Royal Bank of Canada, three McDonald’s franchises in Victoria, British Columbia and a pizza restaurant in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, was a program that had merit on paper initially, before it spiralled out of control.
Currently, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has become a major issue affecting not only unemployed Canadians but also those individuals coming to Canada from abroad, for short-term jobs.
Canada launched the program in 1973, aiming to bringing in highly specialised workers like academics and engineers for meeting skills gaps in the country. In 2002, the Liberals under Jean Chretian, included low-skilled workers under the ambit of the program.
Successive Liberal and Conservative governments continued to tweak the program further so that it expedited the process of bringing in foreign workers into several sectors of the industry, including food and construction, once pilot projects commenced in Alberta and British Columbia. This resulted in the accelerated entry of temporary foreign workers into Canada – moving from 101,000 in 2002 to 338,000 in 2012, with low-skill workers forming the fastest growing denomination of workers.
Under the current program, Canadians lose out on jobs as do several foreign workers. Locals also miss out on employment opportunities and employers keep wages at artificially low levels. In addition, the government also does not have the bandwidth to keep monitoring a program of this size for any possible program abuses.
Researches also back the impact of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. A CD Howe Institute reported that a pilot project that accelerated the approval process for companies to hire low-skill temporary foreign workers, raised unemployment levels.
The Alberta Federation of Labour revealed recently that some companies were paying temporary foreign workers up to $5 less than the prevailing local market wage for the job, with the tacit approval of the federal government. This also means that the program can reduce wages for foreign workers as well.
According to Jason Foster, the coordinator for Athabasca University’s industrial relations program, “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program moved from being a small, nimble program to a large-scale one that the Government could not manage successfully.” While Employment Minister Jason Kenney promised to implement new reforms for the program, experts believe that only a complete revamp of the program could help salvage the situation.
Source: CBC News
Experienced Canadian helicopter pilots have expressed their concerns about employers hiring cheap temporary foreign workers instead of them, by denying the experienced pilots these jobs. The pilots say that if left unchecked, this trend of hiring cheap temporary foreign workers could spell the death knell for the industry.
Bill Wadsworth is a helicopter pilot in Mayne Island, British Columbia, with about 25 years of experience. He said that he had recently applied for several jobs at various companies in the province. While he was not selected or shortlisted for any of the jobs he applied for, he did come to know that several companies to which he had applied had subsequently sought cheap temporary foreign workers. Ironically, each of the companies to which Mr. Wadsworth applied had mentioned that they had no openings at the time.
In a subsequent interview, Mr. Wadsworth said that he often came across job postings for pilots that offered hourly rates well below the prevailing industry standards. While this would effectively drive down wages in the near future, according to him, this practice of hiring cheap temporary foreign workers instead of experienced Canadian helicopter pilots would eventually lead to the demise of the industry.
Mr. Wadsworth said that this practice showed how Canadian employers were leveraging foreign workers against experienced Canadian pilots. “They’re leveraging the foreign workers against the Canadian pilots, essentially threatening Canadians by saying: ‘We’re paying these guys so little and we’re only going to pay you 10 dollars an hour more. So you either go with the flow here or we’re hiring TFWs and you’re out of work,” he said.
Kirsten Brazier, a helicopter and fixed-wing pilot in Vancouver has encountered similar experiences. She said that employers were increasingly telling Canadian pilots across the country that the Canadian pilots were under-qualified, thereby emphasizing the need to hire cheaper temporary foreign workers. In doing so, these employers were simply exploiting the loopholes in the system and hoodwinking the federal government.
The Canadian Press examined several applications for temporary foreign workers, filed by private helicopter operators from across Canada and found that these hiring companies have expressed their inability to find domestic candidates who possess the required skills.
Ms. Brazier said that the practice of not employing Canadian pilots would damage the industry in the end, as operators would use the program as a justification for disqualifying competent Canadian pilots.
Source: The National Post