The Government of Canada, on April 29, 2013 – announced major reforms to its broad Temporary Foreign Worker program.
In recent months, changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program have been a common topic among Canadian immigration-related discussions. However, a debate featuring reported high profile cases of abuse against the program has prompted the government to take timely action.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Workers arriving in Canada through the TFW program make up a substantial chunk of the local labor force. Last year alone, there were more than 213,000 foreign nationals who came to Canada through this route – three times as many as ten years ago.
Abuse by some business sectors in Canada believed to have effected the changes in Foreign Temporary Worker Program rules
To hire a foreign worker, the general rule is for an employer to secure a Labor Market Opinion (LMO) or a positive LMO in particular. This document indicates that hiring the prospective foreign worker will affect the local labor market positively or neutrally. To get a positive LMO, an employer must prove that his efforts to fill the position with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident have been unsuccessful.
When hiring a foreign worker, not only does an employer have to state the need to do such action. He also has to provide evidence of his unfruitful efforts to hire a local, and comply with federal and provincial labor standards and requirements. Rules were recently modified to allow employers to pay foreign workers 15% less than the current wage for a particular position, as long as they can prove that they are subject to the same wage scenario. The program also launched the Accelerated Labor Market Opinion (ALMO) to fast-track LMO issuance, allowing qualified employers to get their LMO’s in as little as 10 business days.
TFW Program Changes
Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced together the following changes to the program:
Note: Only the third reform applies to the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program and other agricultural occupations.
• Temporary foreign workers’ wages must be based on prevailing rates, with the existing wage flexibility removed;
• The ALMO process must be temporarily suspended;
• Give the government more control over work permits in cases of program misuse;
• Require employers to supply more details on their LMO application forms to ensure that the program is not used to outsource Canadian jobs;
• Require employers to have a solid plan for temporary foreign workers in their eventual transition to a local workforce via the LMO process;
• Collect LMO processing fees from employers and raise work permit fees to free taxpayers from the responsibility of subsidizing the costs; and
• Make English and French as the only two languages that can be required for a job.
Why the Changes?Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program were spurred by a controversial issue that dealt with the significance of the program to the Canadian economy. Particularly, there were two incidents that brought such issue to attention.
First, foreign workers were recently found to compose a substantial portion of the workforce behind the Royal Bank of Canada, which is considered a key Canadian financial institution. As these foreign workers were hired, a total of forty-five Canadian former employees of the bank were left without jobs. Because it is against the law to hire overseas workers for positions that could otherwise be filled by locals, many were speculating that loopholes in the TFW program were used to manipulate it.
Second, a Canadian mining company started imposing a Chinese language requirement on job applicants, which resulted in the employment of 200 workers from China and the disqualificiation of Canadian applicants. Again, speculations rose that qualified Canadian workers were skipped in favor of the Chinese applicants in an effort to save on labor costs.
Minister Finley emphasizes the need to reform the TFW program, saying the program’s objective is to fill labor needs with overseas workers only when local candidates are not qualified, and that Canadian workers must never be displaced in the process.
Indeed, many of the recent changes to the FTW program are directed at these concerns, and while undergoing reform, the program continues play an essential role in the country’s economy-driven immigration policies.