The scandal-tainted noise about the temporary foreign workers program (TFWP) is proving, to the Conservative government’s likely dismay, far from temporary.
Originally intended to help address a shortage of skilled labour in this country, particularly in the fast-food biz, the program has attracted a salvo of enduring censure for employers’ abuse thereof.
From the first — an allegation in April 2013 that the Royal Bank was hiring temporary foreign workers to replace 45 native-born IT staffers — to the latest — a complaint that two Saskatchewan waitresses lost their jobs while their temporary foreign worker (TFW) colleagues were spared the axe — this legislation has been smeared with bad blood.
For those folks just getting with the program, an FYI on the TFWP:
• The TFWP is a federal initiative designed to allow Canadian companies’ hiring of foreign nationals. It was introduced in 1973.
• The feds have allowed companies to hire TFWs for jobs they can’t fill with Canadians since 2002.
• Employers are supposed to advertise available positions for Canadian candidates, and only hire TFWs in their absence. The program’s first rule, as outlined on the Employment and Social Development Canada’s website, is “Canadians must always be first in line for available jobs.’’
• Between 2006 and 2014, more than 500,000 TFWs have been brought into Canada under the TFWP.
• TFWs are tied to the employer who brought them into the country and would have to leave Canada if they lost their jobs.
• The program was the subject of heated debate between Harper and the opposition NDP party, which drew on CBC reports that some employers were bringing in TFWs to fill jobs for which local and available workers were collecting EI.
• In 2013, the CBC reported that 65 percent of recent newly created jobs in Saskatchewan were held by TFWs.
• Many opponents to the program argue that it should be replaced with other, simpler ways to tackle labour shortages in economically booming regions. They complain that the government has failed in its responsibility to ensure that there aren’t qualified Canadian workers who could take on the jobs filled by TFWs.
• In January 2014, in response to widespread employee frustration, Employment Minister Jason Kenney said the program would be subject to a second round of reforms.
• The Kenney blacklist — employers who have broken the rules or been suspended from the TFWP — includes three McDonald’s in Victoria, Jungle Jim’s in Labrador and The Boathouse in Fenelon Falls.
“Canadians are being denied jobs,” Shauna Jennison-Yung, one of the waitresses let go by Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza in Weyburn, SK, told the Globe this week. “There’s no way that we should be out there pounding the pavement, having to take an entry-level job, when we’ve worked our asses off to get where we are. It’s just not right.”