Canada’s newly released text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is prompting concerns over foreign skilled workers and provisions of the agreement providing that there will not be limits or testing of foreign workers. The agreement provides extensive narrative on business travel and the flow of skilled temporary foreign workers.
Labour unions are concerned that the text ignores questions about on-the-job safety and the protection of Canadian jobs. Unions are also concerned the agreement could allow foreign companies to bring in an unlimited number of temporary foreign workers in certain broad occupational categories while bypassing usual measures to protect Canadian jobs.
Those who support the deal are downplaying union concerns, arguing that Canada will still be able to ensure foreign workers meet local standards for training.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson Diana Khaddaj said Canada retains the right to regulate professionals and technicians under the deal.
Under the deal, professionals and technicians and their spouses could work in Canada for up to one year, with the potential for extensions. Workers who qualify to work in Canada under international trade deals are exempt from the screening process of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The text also mentions a category called “professionals and technicians”, which outlines a large number of specific trades that could come to Canada including electrical and other construction trades.
Recent reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program were aimed towards the abuse of lower-skilled workers. The reforms eased restrictions on the entry of higher-skilled labour through avenues such as trade agreements. Advocates for such exemptions under trade deals argue that they are limited to highly skilled workers such as engineers who are required to fill a specific need.
The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement signed on October 5, 2015, has yet to be ratified by each of the 12 Pacific Rim countries including Canada and the USA. The agreement deals with a variety of matters of economic policy.