TFWP review: Listen to Canadian workers, not just businesses – labour group

The Federal Government must listen to working Canadians, not just employers and their lobbyists when they review the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the Alberta Federation of Labour said today in response to Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk’s announcement that the federal review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will be completed by the fall.

“There’s a sense of urgency because it needs to be done before the fall because that’s when companies will be looking to make further applications,” Mihychuk told reporters in Ottawa. “So, we’re anxious to get it going.”

“Canadian workers cannot let business do all the talking when the government asks questions about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Because we know what business wants, and we know that they’ll lobby hard for easier access to exploitable workers they can push around.”

The AFL plans to contact the minister, and will ask to be included in the review process.

“There are still major problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Employers still use it to avoid paying decent wages; workers still face wage theft and abuse; it still acts as an impediment to young Canadians working on apprenticeships,” McGowan said. “This review could be a chance to fix some of those problems. Or it could be a chance for the government to re-open the cheap labour floodgates.”

Since 2006, the number of Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada has more than tripled.

AFL claims that Alberta is “ground zero” for the abuse of the program – and of Temporary Foreign workers.

Because Temporary Foreign Workers are dependent on the whims of their employers for their right to stay in Canada, they are at a disadvantage in terms of negotiating for fair wages, safe workplaces and respectful treatment, the federation pointed out.

They face higher rates of wage theft, higher rates of workplace abuse, and often work for lower wages, according to the AFL.

“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and other guest-worker programs in Canada, should probably be scrapped altogether,” McGowan said. “At the very least, the existing rules about hiring Canadians first need to be enforced, and proactive inspections of Temporary Foreign Worker worksites need to be conducted to prevent abuse. We also need to make sure that employers can’t circumvent rules designed to protect Canadian workers by using worker mobility programs in trade agreements.”

Data released by the federal government shows that approximately 192,000 temporary work permits were issued during the first three quarters of 2015.