Last Updated on January 24, 2019
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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