Employers, unions not satisfied with temporary foreign worker changes

posted on June 20, 2014

By Jen St. Denis, Business in Vancouver | Link to Article

By Jen St. Denis, Business in Vancouver | Link to Article

The federal government introduced sweeping new changes to Canada’s controversial temporary foreign worker program June 20 — but the overhaul has satisfied neither employer groups nor unions.

The changes include capping the number of temporary foreign workers, increasing the application fee, stricter enforcement and restrictions on the program’s use in regions with an unemployment rate greater than 6%.

In B.C., that currently includes every region except the Lower Mainland/Southwest.

The program will also be broken out into two streams. One stream will be for low-skilled temporary foreign workers, with the objective to fill low-skilled jobs when employers can’t find qualified Canadians. The second “international mobility program” will be for highly skilled workers who are deemed “to advance Canada’s broad economic and cultural interest.”

Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, called the changes “perplexing.”

“It’s not going to be a huge disaster for industry but…if you’re a restaurant in some of these areas that you haven’t got any workers, that’s a huge disaster,” Tostenson told Business in Vancouver.

In recent years, the restaurant industry in B.C. and Alberta have been particularly heavy users of the program. Allegations of worker exploitation in a Tim Hortons in Fernie, followed by media stories about a McDonald’s franchisee in Victoria who allegedly hired temporary foreign workers instead of qualified Canadians, led to a ban on restaurants using the program starting this April.

As of today, that ban has now been lifted.

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