TFW WTF? Why progressives want to talk about solutions to the temporary foreign worker program

The federal government claims that it's "committed to reforming the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to ensure that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs".

With more than 300,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada, it's easy to see how that statement is being greeted with skepticism on the left.

On Tuesday (June 17), progressives will hold a free roundtable discussion on this topic—billed as TFW WTF?—starting at 6:30 p.m. at the YMCA Hotel (733 Beatty Street).

Moderated by Straight contributor and Mainlander writer Daniel Tseghay, the panel features representatives of Justice for Migrant Workers (Adriana Paz Ramirez), the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (Paul Finch), No One is Illegal (Tracey Mann), and David Fairey, former director of the Trade Union Research Bureau.

One of the biggest concernsis that temporary foreign workers face deportation if they're fired or they quit. And that gives employers a big stick in dealing with these employees.

The Straight's Carlito Pablo recently wrote about a new report by the West Coast Domestic Workers' Association, which called for several reforms.

The proposals included eliminating a requirement that employers must provide support for temporary foreign workers to qualify for provincial nominee programs. These are sometimes a route to permanent-resident status, which is a precursor to gaining citizenship.

The West Coast Domestic Workers' Association report also recommended taking away employers' legal right to identify which temporary foreign agricultural workers should be permitted to return the following season.

Meanwhile, Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney will soon announce changes to the program to calm down the growing public backlash.

The Globe and Mail recently reported that Kenney is considering a "major hike in the user fee for the program and a minimum 'wage floor' for TFWs".

If implemented, this could make it more difficult for low-wage employers to hire temporary foreign workers.

According to the Globe story, at least four Conservative MPs in Alberta are pushing Kenney to back off doing anything that will reduce the number of temporary foreign workers in their province.

The government has stated that it won't process labour-market opinions—which are required to bring in foreign workers—"if there is new information indicating that the employment of the foreign national in any portion, sector, region or occupational group of the labour market in Canada may or will have a significant negative effect on the Canadian labour market".

And last week, Kenney said that the government would commission Statistics Canada at $14 million per year to conduct surveys on wage rates and job vacancies.

This will reportedly help the government formulate policies to ensure that employers don't try to take advantage of the temporary foreign worker program.

In the meantime, Kenney has already announced that the government is refusing to process "labour-market opinions" in the food-services sector.

That caused a furious eruption in the fast-food industry, with McDonald's Canada's CEO calling the criticism of its reliance on the program as "bullshit".

But so far, Kenney's recent moves have done little to quell Opposition concerns that temporary foreign workers could still be exploited by Corporate Canada.

NDP employment and social development critic Jinny Sims has pointed out that the Conservative government has refused to back her party's call to have the program investigated by the auditor general.

"Only a complete audit can restore Canadians’ trust in the TFW program, which has gone so completely off the rails under the Conservatives," Sims said in a statement in April.

This issue will likely remain in the spotlight until the next federal election, which is expected in the fall of 2015.

There's been a great deal of media coverage of the temporary foreign worker program's impact on Canadians seeking employment.

Tomorrow night's roundtable discussion at the YMCA Hotel will give the progressive community a chance to learn more about its effect on foreign workers enrolled in the program.

Comments (14) Add New Comment
Cons
Cons providing Foreign Workers who are beholden and virtually trapped to their employer thus more subservient than Canadians who can change or leave jobs as they choose.

The Cons providing for their constituents Big Oil & huge Corporations like the biggest Fast Food chains.

To a Con Foreign Workers before Canadians for a few dollars more in profit for their large Corporate base.
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CW
The very name of the program "TEMPORARY foreign workers" should indicate that this is not meant to be a shortcut to citizenship. The workers are intended to be here for 2 years, with the possibility of a renewal which would extend that to 4 years. After which the workers are to return to their country of origin.
I do not understand the cries of how unfair it is that they should be sent home after the contractual time limit is up. This is the deal they signed up for and need to live up to.
Certainly, there have been many abuses of the program by many employers and yes, those employers need to be held accountable for their actions, but the Feds created this system and have watched, or more correctly not watched it expand into a program that it was never intended to be.
Personally I can't imagine how it is necessary to seek staff from as far away as the Philippines to serve doughnuts when there is such a high unemployment rate among our youth. Surely this is not such a technically demanding skill that staff cannot be found locally. I suspect there are other motives at play here.
How many UBC engineering grads are looking for work in their field while TFW's are filling those positions. The same goes for business or technical program grads, yet again TFW's are filling those jobs.
I am certain that there are a great many positions that can only be filled by people with a very specific skill set and that there are sometimes difficulties finding that very specific person to fill that very specific need. But 300,000 very specific sets of skills...seriously. We as Canadians must be a very poorly trained and illiterate bunch of people if we are unable to fill a position that requires the phrase "Would you like fries with that" to be spoken with each iteration of a task.
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Alan Layton
CW - "We as Canadians must be a very poorly trained and illiterate bunch of people if we are unable to fill a position that requires the phrase "Would you like fries with that" to be spoken with each iteration of a task."

You just answered your own question. Most Canadians hold jobs such as in the fast food industry in such low esteem that it is considered a sign of failure to work at one. Someone from a poor country though has no problem doing this job and doing it extremely well. If an employer has the opportunity to pick a worker who feels that their job is the bottom of the barrel and will leave as soon as possible, or a skilled, efficient and dedicated person who will work hard and show some loyalty, which one do you think they will pick?

I don't think the problem is that we are untrained or illiterate but that we have this air of superiority and an unrealistic sense of entitlement that we are handicapping ourselves.
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Padre Damaso
CW - "The very name of the program "TEMPORARY foreign workers" should indicate that this is not meant to be a shortcut to citizenship. The workers are intended to be here for 2 years, with the possibility of a renewal which would extend that to 4 years. After which the workers are to return to their country of origin."

To be a citizen here, a temporary foreign worker such as myself needs to be a permanent resident first and have lived here at least 3 years already. To be a permanent resident , with McDonald's where I am working now, I have to get from a low skilled position (food counter attendant) to high skilled which is ONLY 3 promotions away. Either that or my employer can promise to give me the papers necessary to support only 20% of his foreign worker workforce for permanent status. Either way, you see, I may be screwed into thinking that I have to work harder, not complain much about trivial things and just do what my job entails. This and "competing" with other foreign workers. You see, I have very little time to dilly dally since you pointed out Canada's 4 year rule where if I am not yet a permanent resident, an extension for my stay as a foreign worker will be refused and I will have to cool my heels back in the Philippines for 4 more years before coming back here.

My fellow Philippine foreign workers know what we got ourselves into and we are bound by the rules of any country we work in. We only HOPE that we will be given more time but we dont cry out that it is unfair. Maybe some but definitely not all.

At the moment, our workforce is composed of 40% teenagers and youth. Teenagers in our store tend to slack off. Most of them are placed in cashiers simply because they get stressed and quit if they were given more workload for about half of them. They need constant reminding which my supervisors dont have time to if it gets really busy. My job is all around in store as a grill person, fry person, sometimes maintenance, making sandwiches, bag and a whole lot more. My supervisors depend on me heavily. And the job needs to be done as fast as possible.

Training and illiteracy are not what employers are looking for. They can train you. Educate you. But willingness to do the job WITHOUT complaining is something that cannot be taught. Have you complained today at work? Ask yourself that.
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KH
"I don't think the problem is that we are untrained or illiterate but that we have this air of superiority and an unrealistic sense of entitlement that we are handicapping ourselves"

Exactly. I am a TFW. I am from the UK. I work for an A&W franchise in Alberta. Over the last year of my employment I have seen so many Canadians boys & girls hired & quit within days because it is unbecoming of them to wear hair nets, serve fries & clean washrooms. I am so tired of reading comments from the odd small-minded Canadian. We work bloody hard & yes, we (TFW's) are heavily depended on to keep our store running because we fear losing our jobs whereas the Canadian workers will constantly be late & call in sick. I realize the country does not want to hear this, but its true. Everybody wants better for themselves, its just not always possible. My point is, they do indeed take their responsibilities very lightly & the Foreign Workers are left to pick up the crap. Alberta's fast food industry would not survive without us, simple as that.
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ab
First of all it burns me when I hear the work low skilled burger flippers and when canadians consider us as illiterates. Trust me most of us are not I was a second year engineering student when I took a job offer 5 years ago. Everything on earth requires skill and experience I don't anybody can come and run the store like I can cause I have done it for years.we tfw are hardworking and under paid trapped human beings. We do it just because it is a better place compared to where we came from. It is not the money we are barely surviving hoping one day we will have a better status, so we can go back to school and live the Canadian dream.I find it funny when canadians say that we took over their jobs and we are not helping the economy. We pay tax, Ei and Cpp knowing the fact that we will still be shipped back and will never benifit from the pension we have been paying. We only took the jobs with no career path, lets be honest who wants their kids to work at McDonald's for the rest of his life. Instead why don't you people push your government to provide trainings with high skilled and high demand for your children and yourselves. I don't think you canadians will want to take shifts where you get to work all night and sleep and day. I was hospitalized for lack of vitamin D, after working nights for about for years
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John Casey
Mr. Jason Kenney, as a computer contractor I have been without a contract more in the last two years than the entire preceding 20 years. Canada has an official 7% unemployment rate but 4 out of 10 unemployed have just given up. So technically Canada's unemployment rate is more around 12% as a result of the recession. As a member of the majority government, you should be ashamed by this, but you don't seem to be. Now you tell me how you can prevent abuse in the follow circumstance and I am on board with the TFW program. An employer advertises a position with an agency or on line job site. They may reject the resumes of better candidates for stupid reasons and then interview a few of the poorer ones. Then they claim no one met their needs and apply for a TFW. I am now working, but as a person who has been searching for work consistently for the past 2 years, I can guarantee this is going on and has happened to me. I can also guarantee there is no way the government can prevent this abuse. Therefore the TFW program must be scrapped or you have proven the Conservative government does not put Canadian workers first should not be in power after 2015.
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Chris in Alberta
This is what is wrong with this entire situation.... lets see how this blows over, could you image if this was a local business owner only hiring locals....

http://www.kijiji.ca/v-bar-food-hopitality-jobs/edmonton/server-position...
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AC
Its really a big shame for the Conservative always pushing Canadian first when it comes to job. Who among the Canadians would like to work as cleaner, collecting trash, work as full time in the food industry. No one right, the truth is they want to work 6 months and then collect EI after which the poor TFW are paying taxes, and they are the one who are being abused cause they work hard, pay their taxes and here are the Canadians collecting EI. why cant you see the real situation Mr. Kenny and conservative people. Too bad you just lost your chances of governing Canada again. You are only good in promises which you never fulfill, good in asking donations and supports even from the very poor to the poorest your people keep calling asking donations. What a shame. You are bragging that Canada is very compassionate now its the time you prove to us that you really care for peoples need. We came here to work for a living not collecting money from the government.
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ab
The funny thing is if those recruitment agencies can find 100-200 jobs and make a living out of it, how hard could it be for one person to find a job for himself. Why would you bring someone for a warm place to the coldest place on earth westernize them, climatize them, trian them and when they adopted the system after wasting their youth for 10$ an hour ship them back empty pocket once they have stayed for four years. Canada is a country with more than half its work force aged 40 and above instead of using us to build this great nation why throw us out. Seriously what have we tfw's done wrong? it the government's system, we have proven that we are hard workers, how many times has the government slammed doors on our faces. why is it that they can't make their rules and regulations last atleast 5 years, that way we know what our future is and we will adjust ourselves accordingly. One day they tell us ok get 2 years experience, pay 275 $ and take English exam then apply for residence, the next day they say no your experience is worth nothing from now on may be in the future if we change our mind before you finish your four years. Seriously what are we suppose to save and take home when we get shipped out try to be in our shoes for a second, most of us dont make more than 1500 $ a month, 500$ for rent atleast, food and other basic needs atleast 200 $, vehicle insurance and gas another 250-300 $, most of us have to support our families 200 $ atleast, 100$ for entertainment for the whole month, so we can only save 200 dollars a month only if there is no unexpected expense like traffic ticket, registration fee, work permit extension etc.what are we going to take home? We are also human beings we will love to better ourselves, can you imagine living in a system where it is illegal to get education, we are living in that poverty that we ran way from, when we left our countries not by choice but the lack of opportunity. It is sad but true.....
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AC
Its really a big shame for the Conservative always pushing Canadian first when it comes to job. Who among the Canadians would like to work as cleaner, collecting trash, work as full time in the food industry. No one right, the truth is they want to work 6 months and then collect EI after which the poor TFW are paying taxes, and they are the one who are being abused cause they work hard, pay their taxes and here are the Canadians collecting EI. why cant you see the real situation Mr. Kenny and conservative people. Too bad you just lost your chances of governing Canada again. You are only good in promises which you never fulfill, good in asking donations and supports even from the very poor to the poorest your people keep calling asking donations. What a shame. You are bragging that Canada is very compassionate now its the time you prove to us that you really care for peoples need. We came here to work for a living not collecting money from the government.
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ric
The problem with Canada is it has a British culture with a reputation for stinginess with everything. Like the Aussies and kiwis, they calculate everything in a points system to determine your worth and not your hard work and how much money you got to settle here. All Anglo Saxon countries UK,US,Canada, Aust and New Zealand has the world's strictest immigration policy and they don't even imagine giving amnesty to any illegals the way some poorer European countries do and those countries never send any foreign workers home even they have economic crisis and far more unemployment.These Anglos are simply living the Ebenezer Scrooge title and hey I was a former tfw who returned home and even though I got hired back by another employer, the Canadian embassy in my country denied my visa twice. Well I guess they don't want me to collect my remaining tax refund which they refund in installment. And to think we tfw are not permanent how are we suppose to get back what they owe us to return? To my amazement by the way, when I was waiting for my flight back home in Vancpuver airport I was approached by a Chinese who can't speak and understand simple English and yet I saw she has a Canadian passport who is entitled to the taxes that I paid. Shame on Canada despite all the blessings you got, no recession, lots of jobs, yet as ever, I call it as SCROOGE COUNTRY. if ever someone do not know scrooge, find yourself a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and you'll see the typical Anglo Saxon personality.
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Deceived TFW
It's indeed a big business for Canada to have this TFW program because as we all know TFW pays EI, Canada pension plan and other taxes but they will never benefit from it because they will find themselves on their way back to their old poor lives at home while rich Canada will reap all these money. Such a cruel program and it's better for Canada to scrap this program since it's such a big deal for them to give this miserable jobs to foreigners and will pinch everything to check before deciding to give it to them. My suggestion is to get rid of this TFW program because it deceives TFW like me who aspires to be PR here after years of hard work because those agencies who hired us never mentioned the word 'temporary' and even told us that this is a way to a bright future in Canada. And don't forget, Canada will be hated by all TFWs who used to work there that were finally sent home. Shame on the 2nd largest country in the world with only 34 million people. HOW ABOUT HAVING MR KENNY TO WORK RIGHT NOW AS A BURGER FLIPPER AND ALL AROUND DONKEY IN A MC DONALDS INSTEAD?
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Anon
Charlie,
This program is not about corporations benevolently supporting immigrants or about government helping businesses succeed. It is about corporate profit. Most businesses only know how to increase profit through cuts to labour. This program is being used to replace highly skilled professional labour and most of these types of professions require confidentiality agreements and buyouts that would be forfeited if they were to go public. I don't know how you could get the details, but someone should look closely at more of the bigs, eg. Golder.
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