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.
The NDP has criticized the recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program that will force many people waiting for permanent residency to leave the country, and has called on the Canadian government to grant them an extension of stay.
The changes require all temporary foreign workers who have been working in Canada for four years to leave starting from April 1.
The NDP has sent a letter to Ministers Pierre Poilievre and Chris Alexander, calling for a reprieve for TFWs who have pending permanent residency applications. The NDP argues that this would also benefit employers who have invested time and money to train these workers.
“These workers had the courage to come to Canada, and they worked hard, followed the rules and contributed to our economy because they were told they could eventually apply for Canadian citizenship. This Conservative government has broken that promise,” says NDP citizenship and immigration critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe.
“It seems unjust and cruel treatment to them to say now you’re leaving because the government has chosen an arbitrary date of April 1st,” says NDP employment and social development critic Jinny Sims. “The Conservatives have systematically taken away pathways to citizenship for lower-skilled temporary foreign workers. And now, with this completely arbitrary deadline, they are forcing individuals who have already applied for permanent residency to leave the country,” she added.
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.