Maple Leaf Foods is holding back its program at its Brandon, Manitoba plant to bring in workers from China, after it was revealed that 61 workers had paid fees of $10000 to the immigration consultant hired by the company.
Facing acute shortages of workers in Canada, Maple Leaf Foods has long recruited from abroad to fill human resource needs, particularly for its processing plants in Western Canada. Recent changes to the temporary foreign worker program have made the process easier for employers, particularly for high demand occupations. To help them find new recruits overseas, Maple Leaf Foods had hired an immigration consultant to find skilled workers in China. When it was discovered that the workers had paid large fees to this consultant, the consultant was fired.
Maple Leaf learned of the payments—equal to over 4 times the average annual salary in China—when several workers asked to move out of the housing arranged for them by the company. When they explained that the apartments were too costly, it emerged that they were struggling with heavy debts.
While it is illegal to pay to secure passage to Canada under the temporary foreign worker program, there is no indication this has occurred in this case. The workers received training in meat cutting and English as a second language in exchange for their payments, which helped them to secure employment. “What we’ve been able to learn is that these workers had responded to ads in China from a company that offers its services to people wanting to secure international employment” said George Rohulych of Human Resources and Social Development Canada.
The company has made it clear that the concern is not related to the performance of the employees. A spokesperson for Maple Leaf Foods stated that the 61 workers in question have been adjusting well to the community and doing well at work since arriving in Manitoba last spring.. Maple Leaf has already secured government approval to bring in 182 more temporary foreign workers this year, but they will be recruiting from outside of China until they can put to rest their concerns about workers taking on heavy debt.