Committee recommendations fall short for migrant workers

September 23, 2016

On September 19 the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) tabled their report on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

Overall, HUMA released a pro-business, pro-employer report with few positive concrete recommendations for Canadian and migrant workers. 

“This report recommends expanding the temporary foreign worker program, and making it more accessible to employers, while increasing the existing two-tiered labour market. Migrant workers are being treated as a disposable workforce, and that’s unacceptable,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff. 

The recommendations would establish a cap on the share of migrant workers employed by businesses of at least 20% (plus additional numbers based on sector and geography), instead of the current maximum of 10%. 

The report also recommended creating a “trusted” employer stream that would fast-track processing for some companies, and even exempt certain corporations from providing plans to transition high-skill migrant jobs to the Canadian workforce.  

“They’ve made very few recommendations to protect workers’ labour and human rights. This report is just a blueprint for continued corporate profiteering off the backs of Canadian and migrant workers,” said Yussuff.

The report did call for replacing employer-specific permits with sectoral and location-based work permits, which could reduce some risks of employer abuse and exploitation. 

The recommended changes would also end the “4-in, 4-out” rule where migrant workers could only work for four years in Canada before becoming ineligible for the following four years. 

But key concerns remain. The HUMA report only recommends further review of pathways to permanent residency for migrant workers, regulation of recruiters, and compliance monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. 

It is also silent on the lack of medical support for migrant workers injured on the job and barriers to accessing services like Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, even though migrant workers pay income taxes and EI premiums. 

A comprehensive, independent, and transparent audit of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is needed to fully account for the abuse of workers’ rights that have been a chronic feature of the program. Unfortunately, the committee’s hastily-conducted study was a pale substitute for a proper accounting of this program.

 

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