The federal government has granted an exemption to Microsoft Canada that will allow it to bring in an unspecified number of temporary foreign workers to British Columbia as trainees without having to first look for suitable Canadians candidates. Microsoft Canada will not be required to perform a labour market impact assessment (LMIA), a rigorous process that would include a search for Canadians who could fill the positions.
A notice posted on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website says foreign workers will receive specialized training in a new human resources development center in the province. The exemption was granted under a provincial-federal agreement. The Canadian government argues the arrangement is the result of a significant investment by Microsoft that will create jobs for Canadians as well at a new 400-person training centre.
Legal observers however, have noted that the decision appears at odds with the government’s promise to crack down on abuse in the system in order to protect Canadian jobs.
“There is certainly no justification that I can see that would support granting an exemption to a large number of foreign workers to come into Canada to take away jobs that could easily filled by Canadians. On the one hand, the government is telling us they are protecting Canadian jobs; on the other hand they’re signing agreements with big corporations in which they’re allowing them to bring in foreign workers.” said Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman.
The notice that announced this exemption for Microsoft under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was posted on Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website (CIC). It also mentioned that foreign workers will be given 24-month work permits to allow them to stay in Canada ‘until they are transitioned by Microsoft into a new position elsewhere’. This exemption will give Microsoft a significant competitive advantage and it is worth noting that many other tech companies that also offer training are not being given such an exemption.
Waldman said, “There is no other exemption that is specific to a corporation, and it does not fall within any of the other categories where exemptions are normally given. The effect is to create a new category: the Microsoft Exemption.”
Microsoft Canada did not immediately respond to questions about the deal. However, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, Karen Jones, mentioned in an interview earlier this year with Bloomberg Businessweek that this deal will allow Microsoft to bypass stricter U.S. rules on visas for foreign workers.
“The U.S. laws clearly did not meet our needs. We have to look to other places,” she went on to say Microsoft didn’t choose to expand in Vancouver “purely for immigration purposes, but immigration is a factor.”
The government argues that hosting the Microsoft Centre of Excellence in Canada will also provide training opportunities for Canadians and will create long-term jobs that would not exist otherwise. The department did not indicate how many temporary foreign workers Microsoft intends to bring in each year, but said the number would increase “over time as the facility becomes fully established.”
Waldman argues that the fact that new Microsoft employees will be trained here means the company can’t argue there’s a skills shortage that requires them to bring in foreign workers.
“Why can’t we have Canadian trainees hired by Microsoft?”
In June 2013, when Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney made reforms to the temporary foreign worker program, he emphasized provinces would not get a free pass when it came to the new rules, despite the longstanding side agreements that allowed this exemption.
Source: CBC News