October 21, 2016 / 7:32 PM / 2 years ago

Lululemon says committed to Canada after comment on HQ location

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Lululemon Athletica Inc (LULU.O) is deeply committed to staying in Canada, the yoga wear retailer said on Friday, after comments it made in a government submission raised fears it was looking to move its headquarters from Vancouver.

A Lululemon store logo is pictured on a shop in Santa Monica, California, United States, April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RTX29OZG

In the July submission to a Canadian Parliamentary committee, Lululemon said its growth and ability to remain headquartered in Vancouver would require greater flexibility to hire skilled workers under the country’s foreign worker program.

The remarks were posted online and this week caught the attention of policymakers, union leaders and the media. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told broadcaster CBC that he was “very concerned” that companies could consider leaving because of immigration policies.

Lululemon on Friday clarified no change was imminent.

“As a company firmly rooted in Vancouver for eighteen years, we are proud of our Canadian heritage and deeply committed to remaining here for the long term,” Lululemon’s chief executive Laurent Potdevin said in an e-mailed statement.

The company said in the submission it wanted the federal government to grant them an exemption that is already commonplace in the film industry and universities.

That exemption would allow Lululemon to hire workers without filing a labor market impact assessment transition plan. These plans requires Canadian employers hiring temporary foreign workers to outline how they intend to transition to a Canadian workforce.

“In order to keep growing, our industry needs to continue to attract and retain top international talent, from specialized design roles to specialized technical product development and testing roles,” Lululemon said in the government submission.

Canada’s former Conservative government tightened restrictions on Canada’s temporary foreign worker program in 2014, after politically embarrassing news reports that foreign workers had displaced Canadians at some fast-food restaurants.

After winning power last year, the Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau has eased restrictions and talked about making it easier for companies to bring in workers.

On Thursday, a council advising the government on how to improve long-term growth urged it to increase immigration to help offset the aging of the country’s population.

Lululemon employs 10,000 workers globally, including 3,400 in Canada with 1,200 of them based at its head office in Vancouver.

Reporting by Catherine Ngai; Editing by Andrew Hay

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