Commentary on Temporary Foreign Workers

A range of commentary on Temporary Foreign Workers, starting with Mathew Mendelsohn and Ratna Omidvar four recommendations:

Before a temporary foreign worker can be brought to Canada, make it a requirement for the federal government to consult with provincial employment agencies like Employment Ontario or WorkBC as part of the federally mandated Labour Market Opinions that must be conducted to ensure that there are no Canadians who can fill the job. Employers may be able to find the workers they need right here in Canada….

Second, provincial employment agencies could think of themselves more explicitly as fulfilling an HR function for small and medium-sized enterprises. These agencies often know exactly who is looking for work in their communities and which skills they possess, while many SMEs have no expertise or department to help them hire strategically….

Third, employers, governments, and agencies should work together to develop locally based labour market information. Many groups, like the Toronto Financial Services Alliance, already do so for their own sector. If these existing efforts are combined, the quality of information could be improved. Such local efforts should not replace the need for the federal government to improve its national data collection and dissemination efforts.

Fourth, the way we describe the skills needed for particular positions should become simpler and more easily understood. We desperately need common language that employers, governments and agencies agree on to describe the skills required for particular jobs.

Four changes to the TFW program that would help Canadian businesses

Leslie Seidle’s reminder of the provincial role in reducing abuse:

To improve the situation of temporary foreign workers during their term of employment in Canada, provincial governments need to bolster the federal overhaul by more proactively enforcing health and labour standards. They have primary responsibility in these domains, not the federal government. Here the record is uneven, as demonstrated by a recent “report card” exercise carried out by the Canadian Council for Refugees CCR.

Provinces also need to combat foreign worker abuses.

And lastly, a left-wing perspective from David Macdonald of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:

So as a progressive, what’s to be done? Cancel the program and deport every single temporary foreign worker?

I believe there is a middle ground. Let’s cancel the TFW program, but before we do that, let’s offer all temporary foreign workers an expedited process towards permanent residency, if they want it. In the meantime, TFWs should be given a choice to stay at their present employer or find a new one if they wish.

(Live-in caregivers, one of the TFW categories, already have the right to apply for permanent residency. Although, there is discussion that this right should be removed as it might back up the immigration system).

Interestingly, it is a union that spearheaded this approach on a small-scale. The Canadian government should expand it on a large-scale. If you were an employer who treated their foreign workers fairly, then good for you as those folks will likely stick with you.

However, if you’re an employer who used the threat of deportation to deny foreign workers basic rights and fair pay, then welcome to the Canadian labour market where if you treat people badly … they quit because they can…without deportation.

Temporary Foreign workers: a progressive solution