Temporary foreign worker round-up

Prestige Hotel in Nelson, B.C.

Temporary foreign workers blamed for cut to B.C. hotel workers’ hours: Two former employees of a southern B.C. hotel chain are happy the government is taking steps to clean up problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program they say have existed for years.

Sharon Lang, who lives near Nelson, says she worked as a housekeeper at the Prestige Hotel six years ago.

But when two housekeepers from Mexico were brought in, work for some locals dried up. Lang says after she and her supervisor complained, neither of them worked at the Prestige again.

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French jobs fair tells firms they can hire foreign workers without skills assessment: “Did you know … you can recruit francophone temporary foreign workers without an LMO?” reads the promotional material for the Working Abroad Newcomers Network exhibition being held in June in Lyon and Toulouse.

Canadian employers generally need a positive LMO – a labour market opinion – to bring in temporary foreign workers. The LMO requires companies to explain why they want to hire a foreign worker instead of a Canadian.

Would-be French temporary foreign workers, however, can apply for the so-called francophone significant benefit.

Margaret Wente: We’re hooked on foreign workers: Canadians have a love-hate affair with foreign workers. We’re worried that they’re stealing jobs from needy, unemployed Canadians, including our own kids. But we also know we can’t live without them. Who would pack our fish and pick our peaches? How would the upper middle class survive without Filipino nannies to mind the kids?

Originally designed as a temporary fix for employers who needed critical skills, it morphed into the path of least resistance for businesses that need cheap, reliable help. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers in Canada. Most of them are in the restaurant and hotel industry, food processing and cleaning. The people they hurt the most aren’t your neighbours or your kids. They’re the more marginal people in the labour market – new immigrants, aboriginals, high-school dropouts.

David Green: Allowing foreign workers promotes low-pay jobs: The recent controversy over temporary foreign workers highlights that companies can be profitable with very different approaches to wages and worker turnover. On one side of the spectrum are companies such as Lee Valley Tools, which treats its employees well in terms of wages, benefits and training and has famously low turnover rates. On the other are firms that pay relatively low wages on jobs with little to recommend them in terms of benefits, the environment in the workplace, or chances for advancement.

This dichotomy is present even in the fast-food industry, which we are used to thinking of as low-wage and high turnover. In the U.S., In-N-Out Burger runs on a model with higher wages, benefits and chances to move into management — a model that has been called “professionalizing fast food.” The result is lower worker turnover than other fast-food firms. The chain competes successfully with the bigger fast-food chains in California and other western states.

Trades students to air concerns on Temporary Foreign Worker program: Trades students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University are raising concerns about the effects of the Temporary Foreign Worker program on skilled trades in B.C.

They’ve organized a public forum this Friday afternoon at the Cloverdale campus.

Guest speakers include NDP MLA Harry Bains (Surrey-Newton), federal NDP MPs Jinny Sims and Jasbir Sandhu, Kwantlen students and others. Politicians from all political parties have been invited to participate along with union representatives and members of the Surrey Board of Trade.

TorStar: Temporary foreign workers a global phenomenon: There used to be another word for temporary foreign workers. They were called immigrants. They did jobs that, we’re told, Canadians now don’t want to do. That included mining, assembly line manufacturing, construction and cleaning. They did them with relative verve because they were en route to being Canadians and so were their kids — especially the kids.

Replace temporary foreign workers program with immigration, incentives: some say the entire program should simply be scrapped in favour of other, simpler ways to tackle supposed labour shortages in provinces and regions that are booming.

Allowing more low-skilled immigrants into Canada and requiring them to settle in regions of the country with labour shortages is one option, says Jeffrey Reitz, an immigration expert at the University of Toronto.

“That would certainly be a possibility since we haven’t been bringing people in on a permanent basis at low-skill levels,” Reitz said. “It may be that our economy hinges on having more unskilled workers coming in as permanent immigrants.”

Gunter – Foreign workers program not all bad: Thanks to federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney, it’s about to become difficult to get a burger or a doughnut and coffee in Alberta – again.

Back in the late 2000s, before the worldwide financial crisis slowed Alberta’s economy to about 3% annual growth, labour shortages in the province were so acute that fast food restaurants closed early most evenings and sometimes didn’t open at all on weekends.

Temporary Foreign Worker suspension affects business close to home: Many business owners across Canada are reeling after learning on Thursday, April 23, Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced a suspension on the food service industry’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

This includes local business, 2nd Street Eats in Wawota owned by Gerald and Kristine Duff. Their restaurant opened a mere two years ago and for the last year and a half they have been looking into bringing a cook in from Albania.

SK premier Brad Wall: Temporary foreign workers have upside: Premier Brad Wall voiced support for the embattled Temporary Foreign Workers program Thursday, saying that Saskatchewan should welcome immigrants who are helping bolster the provincial economy.

While he said jobs should be offered to Canadians first, he pointed out that more than half of temporary foreign workers who come to Saskatchewan eventually become permanent residents.

“That’s the rest of the story that we need to make sure people understand,” he told reporters in Saskatoon after his annual premier’s dinner where he applauded the province for being generous to newcomers.

Temporary foreign workers: Everything you need to know: At a high level, there are growing questions about the underlying justification for the program. The government has said it is needed to fill a growing labour shortage, but experts, including the C.D. Howe Institute and numerous economists, have said the quality of Canada’s labour market data is so poor that it is impossible to know for sure whether there is a serious labour shortage.

There are also specific stories about how the program is working in practice. Last year, Royal Bank apologized in response to controversy over its use of the program and inter-company transfers to outsource IT workers. More recently, a series of stories by CBC reported on allegations that Canadian were displaced by temporary foreign workers at three McDonald’s restaurants in Victoria and at a pizza restaurant in Weyburn, Saksatchewan.

Business groups, such as the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association, insist the need is very real and the federal government’s recent moratorium banning the foodservice sector from the program will have a “devastating” effect on business.
Ontario – where the unemployment rate of 7.3% is currently above the national average of 6.3% – actually welcomes the most temporary foreign workers when all categories are included. This broader statistic includes workers who are in Canada under an LMO, but also inter-company transfers and other exchanges that do not need an LMO.
Where do temporary foreign workers come from?

There are two ways of measuring this. Employment and Social Development Canada publishes data on the number of LMOs the department has approved each year. However, in 2012, the government says that in 60 per cent of the cases where an LMO was approved, the employer did not end up bringing in a worker. Therefore the number of positive LMOs is primarily useful to indicate trends.

Measured by approved LMOs, the top source country is the Philippines, followed by Mexico, the United States, India and Jamaica.

However, the list of source countries changes considerably when the large number of temporary foreign workers who do not need an LMO are included. By that measure, the United States is first, followed by Mexico, France, the United Kingdom and Australia…