Employment Minister Jason Kenney has made it easier for businesses to hire temporary foreign workers in skilled trades by reactivating the controversial accelerated labour market opinion (LMO) program, according to NTFW.CA analysis of the reforms package announced by the government today.
The new fast-track LMIA stream is very similar to the controversial accelerated LMO scheme which Minister Kenney suspended last year 2 after it emerged that about half of the approvals were rushed through with little or no review.
Canadians in the skilled trades have been one of the groups hardest hit by the TFW program, with numerous documented cases of hundreds of Canadian workers being replaced by foreign workers.
“Positions in the skilled trades are essential to the development of major infrastructure and natural resource extraction projects, which are vital to Canada’s economic growth,” Minister Kenney’s department Employment and Social Development Canada claims. “Over time, other occupations may be added based on evidence from more and better labour market information.”
However, NTFW.CA advisor and journeyman electrician Michael Thomas disagrees, highlighting numerous studies, including the governments own, that have concluded that there is no general labour shortage in Canada.
“There is no shortage of labour. There is only a shortage of cheap labour. Even non-union Canadians expect some degree of fairness and a decent wage,” Thomas said. “TFWs are ripe for abuse and they directly reduce the numbers of tax paying employed citizens working“
Minister Kenney and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced an overhaul of the temporary foreign worker program and lifting of the moratorium on approving foodservice sector TFWs.
Changes being made include increasing the application processing fees to $1,000, decreasing the maximum amount of time a TFW can stay in Canada to 2 years, limiting the maximum number of TFWs in an employer’s workforce to 10%, and stiffer new penalties for employers caught violating the program. However, those only apply to the temporary worker program requiring Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs), who are still in a program called Temporary Foreign Worker Program. It does not apply to the majority of temporary foreign workers, who under current definitions are under the International Mobility Programs (IMP). 3
“See the recent insanity over a number of union ironworkers who were fired, only to watch as croatian TFWs walked on site to take over their jobs for 50% of their wage,” Thomas stated, referring to the Pacer Promec Joint Venture case. “This was one of the last straws which brought the TFW program to the attention of everyone.”
“It isn’t just hotel maids and fast food workers, its unskilled and unqualified replacements for highly trained and skilled professionals,” Thomas added. “It’s unsafe, it’s unfair, and it hurts the Canadian economy directly. The big companies save a few bucks in wage, but the government loses hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.”
Thomas’s fears for workplace safety are shared by growing number of Canadian workers allege that the TFWs are underqualified in comparison to their Canadian coworkers, are used to a different safety culture, and are hard to communicate with because of the language barrier.
“The very idea of TFW program reform is offensive to the intelligence of Canadians,” he concluded. “That a system, designed from the outset to be as abuse friendly as possible can then be reconfigured with just enough controls in place to skip the news cycle attention span of the public is dishonest and manipulative. What little good might come from reforms will be silently and easily undone in the near future.”