This week the Canadian government announced new regulations for the temporary foreign worker program, but already the changes are being criticized by business groups as a “step in the wrong direction.”
The changes follow on the heels of a recent controversy when news spread that one of Canada’s largest banks was training foreign workers to replace Canadian employees. The public debate sparked renewed criticism over the temporary foreign worker program’s susceptibility to abuse.
One of the major changes to the program is that employers will no longer be allowed to pay up to 15 percent less to foreign workers than they would, on average, to a Canadian. They are also removing the option to fast-track approval times. Both of these initiatives were introduced by the same government last year, but were operating as “pilot projects” said Minister Kenney upon announcing the changes.
The program has long been a subject of controversy as employers claim it fills a huge need in the labor market while unions and worker advocates argue that it is relied upon all too often. Naturally, there are dissenting opinions about the new rules announced this week.
“In Alberta, in the mid-2000s, we had restaurants that were shutting down because they couldn’t get labour,” said Gary Whyte of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. “If they tighten up some of the rules so people feel more comfortable, so be it. Because we need that (temporary foreign worker) program to stay.”
While employers feel the crunch, worker advocates argue that if companies are having trouble finding Canadians to fill their needs, perhaps they need to look at their wages and conditions of employment first.
“The whole program should be abolished, because it’s a train wreck,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “The Harper government has blinked, but they haven’t backed down. It’s important for Canadians to understand that the basic foundations of the temporary foreign worker program remain in place. It’s still a program that will drive down wages and displace Canadians.”
The new rules will require employers to pay a fee in hiring foreign workers and will also grant the government more power to revoke permits in cases of abuse or exploitation.
Source: Calgary Herald