B.C. government must act to end abuse of foreign workers: advocates

posted on April 17, 2014

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

VANCOUVER — A group of politicians, labour advocates and community leaders called upon both levels of government to stop pitting Canadian workers against foreigners, with some condemning the Temporary Foreign Worker program as a form of modern slavery.

There is a growing anti-immigrant backlash in response to recent revelations that certain fast-food franchises are hiring temporary foreign workers instead of unemployed locals, NDP MLA Mable Elmore said at a press conference at a Filipino-Chinese restaurant near her Vancouver-Kensington constituency office.

Elmore said she spoke recently with some of the 26 Filipino workers hired by a McDonald’s franchisee in Victoria, who is now under federal investigation for allegedly abusing the program.

“They’re very scared,” she said, noting that temporary foreign workers are brought into Canada by their employers and have to leave the country if they lose their job. “They’re terrified today about repercussions, about speaking out.”

The workers are still employed at McDonald’s, she added.

The situation highlights the need for the B.C. government to step in and create a mechanism through which the workers can raise concerns about employers or working conditions without fear of being penalized or kicked out of the country, Elmore said.

“B.C. as a province … must take steps to ensure that temporary foreign workers do not continue to be exploited and abused in our province.”

She also called for a Manitoba-style provincial registry to keep tabs on employers who use temporary foreign workers, how many they bring into Canada and where they are located.

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