Last month, CICNews published a story on recommended changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) that were submitted by a House of Commons committee tasked with reviewing the program. These wide-ranging changes may soon become law, either in whole or in part. Consequently, it is vital for employers and foreign workers alike to get a fuller picture on how the program may function in the future.
Employers in Canada
The recommended changes to the TFWP come at a time when many in the business community have been calling for a less bureaucratic process that is quick to respond to labour market needs. If the recommendations become part of a revamped program, employers could look forward to:
- A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application process that is speedier and more efficient.
- Reduced LMIA processing times for employers that demonstrate trustworthiness.
- The possibility of being allowed to modify contracts with foreign workers during the employment period if both parties consent.
- Further exemptions from the requirement to submit Transition Plans for high-skilled workers.
- Further exemptions from the LMIA process for the hiring of certain workers, such as academics.
- A change to ensure the cap on the percentage of low-wage temporary foreign workers a business can employ at a given time, be set at a minimum of 20 percent.
- More localized data analysis of unemployment figures with respect to certain low-wage positions in regions with a six percent or higher unemployment, which may result in employers that were previously excluded from hiring in these sectors becoming eligible to do so.
Richard Truscott, vice-president for Alberta and British Columbia at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says that “the Committee has made some good recommendations in many areas, including loosening the cap on the number of temporary foreign workers per business, setting up a Trusted Employer system, and also taking some steps to better align the temporary and permanent immigration systems with employers, which includes eliminating the four-year total duration rule.
“It makes no sense for employers to be bringing individuals to the country, training them, integrating them into the business and into the local community, and then after four years the clock strikes twelve and we send them packing.”
However, Truscott notes that some employers may be wary of moves towards open work permits for all foreign workers, noting that many employers make “a major investment to bring workers to the country,” adding that “if you loosen things too far then there is no incentive at all for those employers to use the system.”
Foreign workers in Canada
Although some advocacy groups have voiced concerns that the Committee’s recommendations would not do enough to alleviate foreign workers’ concerns, certain recommendations for changes to the program have been made in order to benefit workers, including:
- Pathways to permanent residence for all foreign workers.
- The removal of the “cumulative duration” rule, which currently makes certain workers ineligible for new work permits if they have been working in Canada for four years and bans them from applying for a new one for an additional four years.
- Reforms to the Express Entry immigration selection system to allow for fixed-term employment contracts to be allocated the same number of points as permanent work contracts.
- The possibility of being allowed to modify contracts with employers during the employment period if both parties consent.
- The extension of work permit durations for caregivers.
- An expansion of the definition of agricultural work, and the possibility of further streaming along industry lines, including agriculture.
- The possibility of eliminating employer-specific work permits in favour of permits that are bound by sector and/or geographic location.
- Multiple entry work visas for temporary foreign workers employed in seasonal work
Syed Hussan, coordinator of the Toronto-based Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, says that “the real question is will the government pass laws to deal with the primary question, which is the lack of permanent immigration status.
“Lack of permanent immigration status is what keeps people away from rights. Permanent residence gives access to services you pay for and certain basic minimums that we believe nobody should be denied,” added Hussan.
“What would benefit the Canadian economy and Canadian industry is people who are laying roots, who are living here permanently, who are investing here, and who feel protected. What we have is a revolving door system, so every few years employers have to train a new pool of workers, and the turnover is extremely expensive. For the economy and for industry, what is needed is a stable force.”
Some labour unions in Canada have said that Committee’s recommendations fall short, also suggesting that workers in Canada have not had their voice heard in the report. The Western Canadian arm of the Labourers’ International Union of North America says the report failed to acknowledge the union’s submission in its findings and recommendations.
“Companies should have to pay whatever the going rate is for construction in a given area, because if they’re allowed to advertise at a much lower rate and they’re allowed to pay at a much lower rate, then they won’t have as many Canadians applying, maybe none,” said Mark Olsen, manager of the union’s regional office.
“And on top of that, they will be depressing the wage rates of companies that are competing for the same work, and workers that are competing for the same work.”
Other unions, including the B.C. and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council, have supported this view.
The next steps
The federal Minister of Immigration, John McCallum, and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, MaryAnn Mihychuk, announced that they would respond to the recommendations within four months. It is expected that the report will guide changes to the TFWP that have been promised by the government since it took office last November. The most recent major changes to the TFWP were introduced by the previous Conservative government in June, 2014.
When regulatory changes to the TFWP are made, they will be reported in detail by CICNews.
Canadian employers: To learn more about your options for hiring foreign workers, please visit this TFWP page. If you wish to hire through the TFWP, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A legal expert will provide a free consultation.
Foreign workers: If you have received a job offer from a Canadian employer and wish to submit an inquiry about getting a work permit and working legally in Canada, please complete the form on this page.
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