The Canadian Trucking Alliance is calling all levels of government to protect immigrant workers from abuse.
Their statement follows an investigative report by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper alleging immigration consultants and trucking companies in British Columbia were making temporary foreign workers pay thousands of dollars in exchange for jobs driving semi-trucks, a practice that is illegal.
The report found many had little or no experience handling such vehicles and their heavy loads, especially in winter conditions involving ice or snow, and exploitation in the form of underpayment and/or long hours was common.
The foreign workers interviewed said they endured the conditions in order to apply for Canadian permanent residency.
The Globe and Mail investigation began in the wake of an accident that saw a loaded semi-truck driven by an inexperienced driver from India slam into a bus carrying a hockey team from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, killing 16 people.
Jaskirat Singh Sindu, who came to Canada as a student, is serving an eight-year prison sentence for the incident, and will be deported to India upon his release.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance noted the critical role immigrant drivers play in Canada’s trucking sector, which has one of Canada’s highest job vacancy rates at 6.6 per cent and an estimated 20,000 unfilled positions.
“The answer is not to stop federal/provincial immigration programs,” the Alliance said. “There are too many commercial drivers going through various programs that are employed by legally compliant and ethically responsible carriers who are facing a driver shortage.”
Rather, the Alliance called for the Canadian government “to create trusted and effective employer programs.”
“The immigration programs currently in place must ensure participating companies have the required standards in place for training, environmental, equipment, and health and safety before they can take part in such programs.
“To protect workers from abuse, while also supporting the Canadian economy, it’s imperative our valued new immigrants end up with the majority of compliant, responsible fleets operating in Canada.”
Following the Humboldt tragedy, the Canadian Trucking Alliance developed a 10-point action plan to address non-compliant trucking companies and improve oversight by provincial safety authorities and federal regulatory agencies.
“Simply put, it’s far too easy to start a trucking company in Canada; and once in the sector, it’s hardly complicated for these unscrupulous carriers to coast under the regulatory radar and avoid enforcement and sanctions,” the statement said.
The Alliance said it expects to have a final industry-government regulatory work plan by early 2020 that would include stricter entry requirements and better monitoring of existing carriers.
The Alliance also called on the federal government to take immediate action against what it says is a “misclassification scam” called Driver Inc.
In this business model, drivers are treated as independent contractors, which the Alliance says allows “unprincipled fleet owners” to “rob” drivers of health and safety rights and exposes them to substantial tax penalties.
“[The Alliance] will continue to work with the Government of Canada and all provinces to ensure that gross violators receive the enforcement attention they require and that our immigration programs grow to meet the needs of responsible and accountable fleets so future truck drivers coming to Canada for a better life never have to experience abhorrent treatments from a safety and labour perspective.”
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