Canada tightens rules for temporary foreign workers

Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:19pm EDT
 
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government announced tighter rules on Monday to prevent employers from using its temporary foreign worker program to squeeze Canadians out of jobs, acting after two high-profile cases tarnished the program's reputation.

The new rules will prevent employers from paying foreign workers less than Canadians, and will ensure that employers who rely on temporary foreign workers have a "firm plan" in place to transition to a Canadian labor force.

However, nothing in the government announcement suggested that the government will prevent fast-food restaurants and others from using the program to hire low-skilled workers, a practice that labor unions say must stop.

"These reforms will require that greater efforts be made to recruit and train Canadians to fill available jobs," Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a statement.

"They will also help ensure the temporary foreign worker program is only used as intended - to fill acute skills shortages on a temporary basis."

Canadian unemployment is 7 percent nationally, but there are labor shortages in some areas and in some professions, and employers that demonstrate they cannot find enough Canadian workers are allowed to bring in foreign workers.

The program was designed mainly to bring in cheap agricultural workers. But it has expanded rapidly to fill shortages elsewhere, both high-skilled positions in the booming resource sector and low-skilled fast-food jobs.

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney weighed into the debate last week by saying the program should be used primarily for high-skilled jobs and that over-reliance on it for low-skilled jobs can prevent needed market adjustments through higher wages.   Continued...