‘Changes’ do not alter TFWP fundamentally

Community News & Features Jul 11, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Migrante-BCThe announcements on the “changes” in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program(TFWP) and the Minister’s handling of it have only fueled more debate about the program. One thing was clear though, the moratorium on the food services sector was over or so it seemed. The criticism of the TFWP however was not over.

The “changes” did not fundamentally alter the program. These did not address the need for permanent immigration, with its pathway to citizenship, instead of labour migration.The “changes” made sure that the TFWP was a program of guest workers.

TFWs are still being tied to their employers, a locked-in situation which makes for the precarious situation that migrant workers find themselves in, a situation that creates the vulnerability for abuse and exploitation. The many cases of abuses by employers and recruiters, violations of employment standards and workers’ and human rights, including the right to organize have been documented and publicized by migrant advocates, labour federations, and academics, but have largely been ignored by government.

Fees have been increased. The time limits for workers have been reduced. The National Occupational Classification and the skill levels have been replaced by low-wage/high wage levels. The Labour Market Opinion has been replaced by the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) which still needs to be filed by employers and which still needs to be approved by the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), which everyone knew from before as Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC).

However, effective immediately, ESDC will not process LMIAs in the Accommodation, Food Services and Retail Trade sectors. These will include food counter attendants, cashiers, grocery clerks, janitors, cleaners, security guards, construction trade helpers and labourers. ESDC also will not process applications for positions that require little or no education or training in economic regions with an unemployment rate at or above six percent.

The new “changes” have essentially divided the TFWP program into those workers needing an LMIA to get their work permit to enter Canada and those under the new International Mobility Program (IMP) who enter Canada with no barriers to employment, no required LMIA, and with the right to bring their own families – and they can choose to work anywhere and for anyone, regardless of wage levels. They can even apply to work at McDonald’s and Tim Hortons, if they so choose.

What programs have remained untouched as of this date are the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and the Live-In Caregiver Program. Under these programs, migrant workers work and live in precarious situations and are rendered vulnerable to potential and real abuse because of the inherent structural features of the programs. It is also a reality that these workers toil far away from the public eye, either out in the farms or inside the privacy of homes. These are also jobs that no locals are willing or interested in doing. Undeniably, farm lobby organizations are very powerful and will not let any government changes harm their business and profits.
Under these “changes”, migrant workers are generally still where they are – being used, abused, and then disposed of. — MIGRANTE BC