Govt to review Temporary Foreign Workers program

The federal government is now launching a review into the controversial Temporary Foreign Workers program.

The program has been making recent headlines with a coal mine in northeastern BC intending to fill hundreds of vacancies with Chinese workers.

Jim Sinclair with the BC Federation of Labour is relieved the government will be taking a serious look at the program and its impacts on Canadian labour.

He says with employers allowed to pay foreign workers 15 per cent less than their Canadian counterparts, companies are relying on the program to get cheap labour.

“The program should go back to what it was when it was originally conceived: a short-term solution to a short-term problem, mostly in construction where we had to have people for a short period of time to do some work because we didn’t have enough skilled trades people in Canada to do it,” he insists.

Temporary foreign workers filled some 300,000 positions in Canada last year, in places ranging from restaurants, to farms, to meat-packing plants.

“We are talking every aspect of Canadian life. Certainly, the program went from providing workers on the skilled side where there was a shortage of labour in hard-to-fill positions. Now more and more it’s being used as a source of cheap labour at the bottom end of the scale which depresses the wages,” he adds.

Federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley issued a statement Thursday saying the Conservative government isn’t satisfied HD Mining Ltd. followed all the rules when it sought foreign worker permits for its proposed mine near Tumbler Ridge, which she said raises broader questions about the program.

“We are not satisfied with what we have learned about the process that led to permission for hundreds of foreign workers to gain jobs (at the HD Mining site),” the statement said.

“In particular, we are not satisfied that sufficient efforts were made to recruit or train Canadians interested in these jobs. … It is clear to our government that there are some problems with the temporary foreign worker program.”

On a related note, Sinclair says a group of temporary foreign workers employed by Tim Hortons in northern BC will be going public on Friday about some sort of work-related complaint.