The Temporary Foreign Worker Debacle

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I am displeased. The first day of spring was 19¾ days ago and it is snowhailing in Halifax tonight.  That’s not a word, but that’s what it’s doing.

 

But what bugs me more than snow in April is when people get all Blanche Dubois about immigration issues. Worse, when the government acts surprised by the fallout from its own policies, cutbacks and decisions. Like the RBC story which is churning through the media meat-grinder right now. It is so convenient to beat up on immigrants and immigration when problems are exposed.

 

The Alberta Federation of Labour has just published a scathing report about the “widespread abuse” and fraud of the TFW program.

 

http://www.afl.org/index.php/Press-Release/list-of-accelerated-tfw-approvals-reveals-widespread-abuse-of-program.html

 

The raw data is fascinating, but the conclusions in the report are circumspect. First, the AFL has created a chart of “questionable” LMOs. Questionable apparently means anything related to fast food. There is no information on the positions being filled or the wages being paid. Are the A&W jobs for managers or burger-flippers? Contrary to what the AFL concludes, there is a distinction. As critical as I am of HRDSC and CIC, this rhetoric is not at all helpful to the discussion. Even if the AFL doesn’t intend to do it, throwing around words like “abuse” and “fraud” in relation to immigration brings bigots crawling out of the woodwork. At the very least, that kind of language should be used responsibly with proper facts to back it up.

 

Back to the RBC mess. My guess is RBC will eventually to do the right thing and ensure those workers don’t lose their jobs. Of course, it is not really “the right thing”. It’s not based on benevolence or ethics, simply corporate self-preservation. But to the people needing to keep their jobs, it’s the same difference.

 

However, if not for the whistle-blowing, this never would have made it onto the radar. Let alone the line-up at my local coffee shop where I overheard the phrase “Get those imports out of here!”

 

He was not talking about the fair-trade coffee.

 

Corporations are beholden to their shareholders and shareholders want to see profits. And on that front, RBC delivers. It’s not enough to say we expect corporations not to exploit the loopholes in the rules. Close the loopholes.

 

The current immigration policy has shut down permanent residence programs in favour of temporary residence programs. That’s plain wrong. The numbers of temporary residents coming into Canada has increased year after year between 2008 and now, despite the recession.

 

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/statistics/facts2012-preliminary/index.asp

 

Contrary to what the public perceives, the LMO application process is serious business. Here’s an example of one type of form an employer must fill out to apply for a LMO: ‪http://tinyurl.com/bqbhxac 

 

Question 28 asks if employees have been laid off. Call me simplistic, but I think this question can easily be changed to keep up with the times.

 

Rather than:

 

Were any employees laid off in the past twelve months?

 

How about:

 

(a)  Were any employees laid off or positions outsourced in the past twelve months?

 

(b)  Is the position being filled a result of a layoff or outsourcing  by any of the following:

 

                                                       i.     the employer

                                                      ii.     an affiliate

                                                    iii.     a contractee

                                                    iv.     a contract for services between the employer and another entity or individual?

 

(If “yes”, provide details. If answers are “unknown” further investigation by HRDSC shall follow)

We promote globalization and corporatization and sell our resources to foreign interests and then freak out when 45 Canadians lose their jobs. A lot more than 45 government employees have lost their jobs this month due to cutbacks. I wonder how many of those jobs are being outsourced?

 

We accept downsizing in government services that shuts down offices and guts entire departments. Then we criticize the lack of skills and insight and attention of really important decision-makers like the TFW Units at HRDSC, Canadian embassies abroad and CIC offices in smaller centers. I don’t know for sure, but judging by the cranky officers I deal with on a daily basis, I am guessing the morale must be absolutely horrible in those workplaces. We jump to conclusions about systemic abuse and beat up on the little guys without all the facts.

 

The RBC debacle hit home with the public. And if fast food joints are getting A-LMOs for minimum-wage positions, that’s obviously scandalous. But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, there are some simple things that can at least be considered. Calling for a halt to the TFW program and using language like abuse and fraud only feeds anti-immigrant sentiment.

 

How about making changes to close the lay-off-and-outsource loophole in order to keep up with globalization? How about ensuring we have good, skilled, efficient decision and policy-makers? Not to get too technical but how about getting rid of the 15% thing – it doesn’t work. How about implementing a better wage-gauge, rather than one based on the outdated NOC codes? How about giving the departments the tools needed to do their jobs competently, including investigating allegations of fraud and abuse?

 

How about changing that form?