OTTAWA ― The Canadian Labour Congress says the federal government has done the right thing in suspending use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) for employers in the fast-food restaurant sector.
“These employers have been abusing the TFWP and it is high time that the government took action,” says CLC president Ken Georgetti. “My question is why it took so long, because the labour movement has been detailing these abuses and presenting them to the government for years.”
Georgetti was responding to news that Jason Kenny, the federal employment minister, had announced an immediate moratorium on the fast-food industry's access to the TFWP. McDonald’s restaurants have imported at least 3,400 workers under the TFWP and Tim Horton’s an estimated 4,500. Yet Statistics Canada reports that in January 2014 there were 6.7 unemployed Canadian workers for each job vacancy.
Some fast food restaurants have reportedly been giving full-time hours to migrant workers while reducing both the hours and salaries of other workers. There have also been reports of restaurant franchisees refusing to pay overtime to migrant workers and renting crowded accommodation to them at inflated prices.
Georgetti says, “The TFWP was intended to bring in skilled workers when labour shortages could be documented, but employers have used the program to import workers across the board in a way that exploits both migrant and Canadian workers.”
Georgetti adds, “Migrant workers do not have the same level of workplace protections and rights as members of the national workforce and are coerced to perform under conditions that undercut the security of their fellow workers. That is no way to build an economy based on good jobs that pay family-supporting wages.”
A recent study, found that widespread use of the TFWP in Alberta and British Columbia boosted the rate of unemployment in those provinces, particularly among young workers. The Institute said that the government’s changes to the TFWP made it easier for employers to hire migrant workers even though there was little hard evidence of labour shortages in many occupations.
Georgetti says, “We really question whether this program should exist at all. If there is a demonstrated need to import workers in specific industries, then we should offer those workers 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.
The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 111 district labour councils.
Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca
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