The Alberta Federation of Labour says nothing short of scrapping the temporary work in Canada – foreign worker program is sufficient to protect the rights of Canadian workers. President Gil McGowan says temporary foreign workers have been used as pawns by Canadian companies and paid below the median wage.
In June, federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced changes to limit the number of foreign workers that large- and medium-sized companies can hire. He also toughened penalties for companies that violate the new rules and promised inspections to uncover abuses.
“The temporary foreign worker program is a train wreck and should be scrapped. This is not a program that can be tweaked or reformed around the edges,” said Mr. McGowan. “As long as this program exists, whether it’s tweaked at the margins or not, employers are going to find ways of using temporary foreign workers as pawns to drive down wages and conditions.”
Mr. McGowan released documents that he says show that Alberta companies were given the green light to underpay thousands of temporary foreign workers in 2013. It notes that it’s acceptable to pay higher-skilled temporary workers up to 15 per cent less than the median if the employer can demonstrate that it pays its other workers that same rate. The manual says that, in lower-skilled occupations, the wage can be up to 5 per cent lower.
Employment and Social Development Canada says it’s important to note that Mr. McGowan is talking about a time period before the government’s reforms in June. Spokesman Jordon Sinclair also points out the wage flexibility provision was eliminated more than a year ago.
Mr. McGowan said even though safeguards aimed at allowing the government to clamp down on businesses abusing the system were in place since 2013, they weren’t working. Mr. Kenney has come under fire from business groups and Western politicians who have complained the crackdown is unduly hurting provinces with a shortage of skilled workers. Mr. McGowan is concerned that Mr. Kenney will bow to public pressure and restore the program to what it was in the past.
Mr. Kenney has made it clear he won’t compromise on the core goal of the controversial overhaul to the work in Canada program: to make sure employers don’t use it as a cheap source of labour when they could be hiring unemployed Canadians.
Source: The Globe And Mail