Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) – Not What It Says It Is

Much has been said about the good and the bad of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Two aspects of the program suggest to me that it is not what it was intended to be:
  1. The TFWP was intended to fill skilled vacancies that could not be filled by Canadians.
  2. It was meant to be temporary until we could train or find Canadians to fill these jobs.

Neither of these objectives has been achieved.

It has now been established that the Federal Government was really issuing permits to hire foreign workers, even though they had no reliable data to base it on.

“Statistics Canada doesn’t provide specific or precise location and industry classifications are too broad and not useful in determining specific jobs that need to be filled.”

– Auditor General Mitchell Ferguson

In the restaurant industry we had Canadians being laid off and replaced with foreign workers, probably due to the fact that at first the program allowed employers to pay 15% below the going local rate for a job.

As well, there was never any requirement that employers have plans to train unemployed Canadians for these jobs. For that matter there isn’t any significant Government sponsored programs that work towards achieving this either.

The jobs are not temporary.

Work permits can be as long as 3 to 4 years.

Until recently, immigrants could apply for citizenship after 3 years of residence in Canada if they were landed immigrants. This is not temporary in my opinion. The end result is that this program has turned into a way for employers to hire not only cheap labour, but also very compliant cheap labour.

In an article in the HR Reporter it was reported that Mr. Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business stated that Canadian youth wasn’t interested in working in these jobs because of the hours and conditions, whereas foreign workers were willing to.

This suggests to me that these employers create working conditions that Canadians would not accept but foreign workers would because they would not complain for fear of being sent back home and because they are not aware of Canadian law. Canadians on the other hand generally know their rights and expect to be treated with respect and dignity and will access the proper channels to ensure that their rights are respected.

The end result is that this program condones cheap labour and mistreatment of workers. This to me is flawed and the program should be scrapped.

Since no one is doing much to create incentives to train Canadians to fill these hard to fill jobs, the solution is one that Canada has used from the very beginning of its existence. Proper immigration policies that bring people who are willing to work hard and in return become solid Canadian citizens.

These policies were in place up until the last decade or so, and while they may have needed tweaking they did not need to be completely revamped so that abundant cheap labour would be the result.

Seasonal jobs still exist and highly skilled positions also need foreign workers, therefore some form of temporary worker program should exist. It should never be designed to replace Canadian workers or create cheap labour and its negative impact on overall wages in the workforce.

Angelo Pesce
Partner & Principal Consultant