Ottawa to review data on employers who rely on temporary foreign workers

posted on October 2, 2014

By Renata D’Aliesio and Bill Curry, Globe and Mail | Link to Article

By Renata D’Aliesio and Bill Curry, Globe and Mail | Link to Article

Employment Minister Jason Kenney says his department is reviewing data compiled on employers who rely heavily on temporary foreign workers – a move that follows concern from several companies about inaccuracies that could damage their reputations.

The data, produced by the Employment Department and released to The Globe and Mail through access-to-information legislation, listed more than 2,500 employers the federal government contended turned to foreign workers to fill at least one-third of their labour force last year.

These employers were cited in June, but not named, to buttress the government’s case for clamping down on Canada’s temporary foreign worker (TFW) program. More than a dozen on the list, including industry giants such as Siemens AG, Accenture Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Shaw Cablesystems, told The Globe that Ottawa’s figures are wrong. Some have called on the government to retract and correct the information.

The list is now being scrutinized.

“We are going back and verifying each one of those,” Mr. Kenney told reporters on Thursday after delivering a speech on the government’s skills agenda at a conference organized by Canada 2020, a public policy think-tank.

“The new system … mandates the department to verify everything to avoid this kind of discrepancy in the future,” the minister noted.

Mr. Kenney did not know how long the review will take. He said he did not see the list of employers before announcing reforms to the program, but saw a summary of the data.

That summary suggested foreign workers made up more than half of the staff of 1,123 employers. The minister said in June that it was a sign the program had become a business model for some rather than a limited, last resort.

On Thursday, the minister played down the significance of the data. He noted most of the employers surveyed by The Globe gave the department wrong information.

“Our fundamental reforms were not based on that data alone,” Mr. Kenney said. “That data was background information … in the development of our reforms.”

The overhaul of the TFW program includes restricting foreign workers to 10 per cent of a company’s work force in low-paying jobs. This and other changes significantly reduced applications to the program in July and August.

Follow Bill Curry on Twitter: @curryb

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