Canada may delay foreign worker limits as packers, farms face squeeze
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, April 28 (Reuters) - Canada may delay implementing new restrictions on the use of foreign workers as farmers and meat processors warn of severe labor shortages in one of the world's biggest agricultural exporters, the employment minister said.
Employers have reported difficulty finding workers despite a 7.1 percent unemployment rate. Many Canadians resist jobs involving manual labor and rural living, a trend that has driven up labor costs and hurt productivity.
Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk told Reuters the Liberal government may delay the July 1 starting date for changes made by the previous Conservative administration, when low-skilled foreign workers can account for no more than 10 percent of an employer's workforce. That is down from 20 percent currently and 30 percent in 2014.
Mihychuk said that timeline may be too ambitious.
"Ten percent has obviously caused a lot of disruption," she said.
The move to 10 percent is part of a "progressive strangulation of the livestock industry" in rural areas, said Ron Davidson, spokesman for Canadian Meat Council, whose members include Cargill Ltd and JBS Canada.
At Sunterra Group, the changes mean some workers would have to leave even though its Alberta pork-processing plant runs at only 70 percent capacity, said president Ray Price.
"They're so happy to be here and they've come from difficult environments," he said. "To see them start to go home makes everybody feel sad." Continued...