Friday, April 25, 2014

TFWP: SHUT IT DOWN, Minister Kenney

If the C. D. Howe Institute study released yesterday isn't a clue as to what is so fundamentally flawed with the TFWP, I don't know what is.
In its report, the non-partisan C.D. Howe Institute looked at a number of examples, but focused on what impact the program had on the labour market in British Columbia and Alberta — two provinces which have employed more temporary foreign workers than the rest of the country combined, in every year since 2007.
For part of the time period in question, the unemployment rates in B.C. and Alberta were seven and five per cent, respectively — lower than the Canadian average at the time and as such possibly a suggestion that employers were indeed having a hard time finding workers. 
But the report found the two provinces saw their unemployment rates change by a larger amount than the rest of Canada, both when unemployment was decreasing before 2007, and when the jobless rate started increasing after that. 
"On average, the variation in the unemployment rate during the whole period was 2.3 percentage points in the rest of Canada and 6.2 percentage points in Alberta and British Columbia," the report says, "which suggests the [program] potentially accelerated the rise in unemployment by about 3.9 percentage points in the two provinces between 2007 and 2010." 
This program is being used not as a tool to fill "urgent" jobs where the appropriate workers aren't available, it is being used as an excuse by employers to hire people for less money than Canadian workers would be willing to work for, or putting up with abuse that Canadians would not accept.
The workers allege they had to pay hundreds of dollars each for their work permits and Labour Market Opinion surveys, when employers are legally obliged to cover those costs. 
A Labour Market Opinion — also known as a LMO — is a legal document describing the worker's job and is required by the federal government before it issues a temporary permit for a foreign worker. 
Orense and Natividad claimed their boss changed their status to skilled supervisor on their LMOs, to help Orense become a permanent resident and allow Natividad to bring his wife to Canada.
 So, we have employers lying on the paperwork.  First of all, you can't tell me that a Supervisor role at Tim Horton's is a "skilled" role.  Yes, it requires some business knowledge, and some people management, but nothing that cannot be learned readily "On The Job".  We aren't talking about skilled trades level knowledge here - you know the stuff that requires a couple of years of training to learn, or a specific degree that takes 4 years to attain.  We are talking about the kind of work that any reasonably intelligent Canadian on the street should be able to pick up in a matter of weeks.

In other words, the employers are using this program as a way to sidestep having to pay Canadians realistic wages, and not be treated horribly.  Come to that, a friend who is currently hunting for work recently ran across a job posting for an "entry level" position that required 3+ years of direct experience.  A requirement that is clearly laughable to Canadians, but could easily be used by an employer to justify hiring through the TFWP instead on the basis that they couldn't find a 3+ year experienced Canadian willing to take "entry level" wages.

I think the biggest tip-off to the way that employers are abusing the TFWP is in recent statements by McDonald's Canada CEO John Betts, who called criticism of the program "Bullshit" on a conference call.  He's entitled to his opinion, of course, but likewise, we are entitled to consider the motives for his outburst.  McDonald's got caught profiteering at the expense of foreign workers they had hired, and hiring exclusively through the TFWP even when they had active applicants from the local area.  In short, McDonald's got caught with their pants down on this one, and they are feeling the heat for it.

The funny thing (if you can call any of this funny), is that employers like McDonald's or Tim Horton's would not find it difficult to hire staff if they were willing to pay something better than minimum wage to their staff, and didn't have working conditions that were so appallingly terrible.  These are people we are talking about.  Not automatons.  It used to be that many teenagers got their first jobs working at McDonald's.  These days, those same jobs aren't available to the teenagers, because TFWs have supplanted them.

In this morning's news, that Minister Kenney has suspended the Fast Food Industry's access to the TFWP, and while that is a good first step, it's now time to shut down this entire program.  There are already immigration programs for bringing in foreign workers when needed.  They aren't simple programs to navigate, but that also means that there is a disincentive for an employer to go that route unless the candidate has specific skills and knowledge that can't be acquired readily, giving local talent the opportunity to fill those roles first.

It's time for the government to start representing Canadians, rather than representing the interests of big business.

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