Recently announced changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) permitting employers to pay migrant workers up to 15 per cent less and fast-tracking employer applications for these workers is unfair and misguided, according to a group of unions and non-government organizations.
"Allowing employers faster access to migrant workers and paying them less for their labour sends a message that this government believes migrant workers are not equal," said Hassan Yussuff, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress.
"With these changes, the federal government is allowing employers to use TFWs as pawns to drive down wages and conditions of work, even at a time when our hot economy here in Alberta suggests that they should be going up," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"This is bad news for foreign workers because they'll get an even worse deal than they've already been getting. And it's horrible news for Canadians because it means that employers will start saying, 'Don't complain and don't demand more because if you do, we'll replace you with foreign workers.'"
Even before these new changes, the TFW program had become a first choice rather than a tool of last resort for far too many employers, said McGowan.
"With fast-tracking and even lower wages for TFWs, the situation is just going to get worse, much worse."
Rather than further skewing the TFWP to unfairly serve employers' interests, what is needed are stronger compliance, monitoring and enforcement measures to protect migrant workers' rights, said Naveen Mehta, general counsel and director of human rights, equity and diversity at the United Food and Commercial Workers.