Parliamentary report on TFWP a blueprint for a two-tiered labour market

Trudeau Liberals not being honest with Canadians about guest worker programs

Edmonton — A parliamentary committee report tabled today about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program shows that the Trudeau Liberals are not likely to curb the exploitation of guest workers.

The report, which was tabled by the Standing Committee on Human Resources Skills and Social Development, is the result of a review that Trudeau Liberals had promised in order to solve problems with the scandal-ridden guest worker program. Rather than tackling the serious issues with how the program drives down wages and puts Canadians out of work, the committee’s recommendations mostly deal with carving out exemptions and undermining the few safeguards that exist.

“When it comes to the exploitation of guest workers and the use of guest workers to drive down wages and displace Canada workers, the Liberals approach might actually be worse than the Conservative approach,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “The report confirms that the Liberals have committed themselves to maintaining, and indeed growing, a two-tier labour market, with a top tier of Canadians and permanent residents who have full rights, and a lower tier of guest workers who don’t.”

Four of the report’s 21 recommendation are about removing or limiting the requirement for employers to prove that they’ve looked for Canadians first. Another recommendation of the report targets existing caps on what proportion of a labour force can be hired through the TFWP, suggesting that the current caps be raised to at least 20 per cent regardless of the local unemployment rate.

“Providing pathways to citizenship for some of the guest workers might soften the blow somewhat, but as long as employers are allowed to continuing bringing in more guest workers to replenish the ranks of the lower tier, the problem of a two-tier workforce tipping the field in favour of employers will persist,” McGowan said, noting that the problem isn’t migrant workers themselves, but the way programs like the TFWP make migrant workers more vulnerable to exploitation and wage suppression. “At best, the Liberal approach would replace a permanent underclass of exploitable workers with a rotating underclass of exploitable workers. In either case, there’s going to be an underclass that employers will be able to use to drive down wages and conditions for migrant workers and Canadian workers alike.”

Another major problem with the report is that it makes no mention of guest worker programs other than the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, failing to note the creation and expansion of the International Mobility Program (IMP). Last year, there were 90,000 work permits approved through the TFWP, while there were 200,000 approved through the largely-unregulated IMP.

“This is particularly troubling because employers using the IMP are not required to prove that they offered their jobs to Canadians first, nor are they required to prove that they’re paying the prevailing market wage,” McGowan said. “The Liberals try to reassure Canadians that there is nothing to fear because the number of workers coming into the country under the TFW program is going down, which is technically true. But they fail to mention that the number of foreign workers coming into the county under the federal government’s other big guest worker program is going up dramatically, and should literally skyrocket if the government ratifies trade agreements like CETA and the TPP which include sweeping labour mobility provisions.”


Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail [email protected].

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