Wooing temp workers

Federal government makes changes to program without additional protections

The federal government has announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that are intended to make hiring short-term labour from overseas easier.

Human Resources minister Diane Finley stated in a press release that the changes will help the government “ensure that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program supports our economic recovery and effectively responds to local labour market demands.”

Employers with a good track record will now receive permission to recruit foreign workers within 10 days of applying to do so. Businesses must now consent to random “in-depth” compliance reviews to ensure wages and working conditions for temporary workers are in line with Canadian standards. However foreign worker wages are permitted to be up to 15 per cent lower than the Canadian average for the same job.

There are concerns that temporary foreign workers are easily exploited by employers compelled to work longer hours receive lower wages or live or work in lower quality conditions than they agreed to before arriving in Canada and even being more susceptible than permanent residents to human trafficking. The government did not specify program changes meant to address these issues.

With 65000 registered Temporary Foreign Workers Alberta is second only to Ontario in the number of people employed through the program. It is anticipated that with the economic upturn Alberta will require 100000 skilled and unskilled temporary workers to fill the employment gap.