Federal NDP calls for a moratorium on Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Jinny Sims THE federal NDP is calling for a moratorium on the use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for lower-skilled jobs, until the Conservative government finds a way to stop the blatant abuses of the program.

“The bottom line is, there are people living here in Canada who are being laid off or having their hours cut to facilitate the use of foreign workers – this needs to end immediately,” said NDP Critic of Employment and Social Development Jinny Sims (Newton—North Delta) on Thursday. “Even McDonald’s has taken action – why hasn’t the government?”

After the media reports regarding its use of the TFW Program, McDonald’s put a moratorium on hiring temporary foreign workers, and has called in a third party to review the program. New Democrats are asking why the Minister of Employment and Social Development hasn’t taken action.

“Canadians deserve swift action from the government,” said Sims, who was joined in Victoria by fellow NDP MPs Murray Rankin (Victoria) and Randall Garrison (Esquimalt). “We are asking them to halt the program and call an immediate independent review.”

MEANWHILE, Federal Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney announced Thursday an immediate moratorium on the Food Services Sector’s access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Kenney said in a statement: “Accordingly, ESDC will not process any new or pending LMO applications related to the Food Services Sector. In addition, any unfilled positions tied to a previously approved LMO will be suspended.”

MOSAIC Executive Director Eyob Naizghi this week in a letter said: “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been in the news frequently these past few weeks, with stories often focused on how some employers are abusing the program. It is MOSAIC’s viewpoint that the entire program inherently lends itself to abuse because it lacks consistency and oversight.

“The Federal Government introduced the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to meet human capital demand, and has paid some attention to putting corrective systems in place. But while the case for needing migrant labor is clear – especially in BC, which is the destination for almost one quarter of all migrant workers – the word “temporary” is misleading as the labor shortage is forecast to become a chronic condition.

“The presence of Temporary Foreign Workers contributes to the overall economy by providing labor in areas that are under resourced or remain unfilled by local residents. Migrant workers also pay taxes and contribute to social benefit programs such as EI, although most will never be able to access benefits from their contributions.

“And yet, despite the fact that Temporary Foreign Workers are proven contributors to the overall economy of our communities and country, they have few rights and no official recourse if those rights – including basic civil rights – are not respected or abused.

MOSAIC has provided programs since 2010 to assist Temporary Foreign Workers with English conversation classes, legal clinics and workshops, funded by private donors and the City of Vancouver. After April 1, 2014, the BC Government has provided one year of funding to organizations to deliver settlement and integration support services to Temporary Foreign Workers.

“It is our perspective that temporary foreign workers are a particularly vulnerable population since there is no mandatory monitoring or watchdog organization to ensure their rights are protected. In our interactions with these migrant workers, we found that many are economically exploited, charged illegal recruitment fees, misled about the work conditions, or paid sub-par wages. Even more concerning, some have been victims of human trafficking. Many are afraid to make complaints as this has previously led to being fired and / or deported.

“Even what protection they are entitled to is confusing as different rights are accorded to different classes of Temporary Foreign Workers, and other programs are just simply unregulated.

“Canada is traditionally recognized for having a welcoming, inclusive and just society. It is a reputation that has made this country a desirable destination for all who seek a better life than what their own countries can offer them. It can be a disillusioning reality when these individuals arrive to find that they have been misled or are mistreated and that there is no governing oversight to address those issues.

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms offers protection for its citizens and permanent residents to live in a free and democratic society. It is past the time for the Canadian Government to provide basic rights and protection to all migrant workers coming to work in this country that would apply to all categories of foreign workers and have accountability for agencies or employers who fail to respect those rights. And it is equally time that we acknowledge Temporary Foreign Workers as contributing members of our community, and provide them with supportive services.”

SUCCESS in a statement said: “S.U.C.C.E.S.S. values an equitable and just society where all people are treated with fairness and respect – behaviour that is exclusionary, prejudicial or demonstrates bias based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

“All individuals who are eligible to work in Canada should be treated equitably and fairly by employers. Employees should not experience mistreatment in the workplace and any mistreatment should not be condoned.
“S.U.C.C.E.S.S. upholds the value that all residents in Canada, irrespective of their temporary or permanent status, should be provided with, and have access to, complete and transparent information regarding their workplace and other rights and responsibilities in Canada.”