Thursday, April 17, 2014

OTTAWA ― The President of the Canadian Labour Congress has called for a “full, open and transparent review” of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) in the wake of media stories describing hiring and staffing practices at a number of McDonald’s restaurants.

“The labour movement has been saying for years that the TFWP is being abused by employers,” says CLC President Ken Georgetti. “These latest episodes involving McDonald’s restaurants proves our point.”

Recent reports indicate that McDonald’s restaurants have imported at least 3,400 workers under the TFWP at a time when Statistics Canada reports that in January 2014 there were 6.7 unemployed Canadian workers for each job vacancy. Some McDonald’s restaurants have reportedly been giving full-time hours to migrant  workers while reducing both the hours and salaries of other workers. It is also reported that in Lethbridge, Alberta a local McDonald’s franchisee rents accommodation to migrant workers, with as many as eight living in each suite. Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s office says that it has launched an investigation and the minister has expressed his concerns to McDonald’s about the potential abuse of the TFWP.

“We have heard all of this before,” says Georgetti. “The TFWP is abused by unscrupulous employers and the federal government promises to investigate, but nothing really changes. In the last decade the number of temporary work permits granted to employers has tripled. The current federal government has provided the tools for employers to import 500,000 migrant workers and all of this at a time of continuing high unemployment in Canada.”

Georgetti says that both migrant and Canadian workers are being abused as a result of the TFWP. “Migrant workers do not have the same level of workplace protections and rights as members of the national workforce and are forced to perform under conditions that undercut the security of other workers. That is no way to build an economy based on good jobs that pay family-supporting wages.”

Georgetti adds that the labour movement is concerned that employer abuses of  TFWP could turn migrant and other workers against one another. “The Canadian labour movement wants to see a return to a robust federal immigration regime that increases annual immigration numbers. If we need workers, then we should offer them a path to citizenship. But in the interim, we want a full, open and transparent review of the TFWP.”

The CLC will hold its 27th constitutional convention in Montreal between May 5-9 and delegates will debate several resolutions regarding the TFWP.