Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Leave Workers Unprotected

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Canadian Council for Refugees

Media Release

For immediate release
23 March 2011

Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Leave Workers Unprotected

The Canadian Council for Refugees today expressed its disappointment that upcoming changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Regulations do not adequately protect migrant workers.  The changes come into force on 1 April 2011.

“There are many documented cases of abuse and difficult conditions faced by Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada – workers who are contributing to the Canadian economy,” said CCR President Wanda Yamamoto. “The upcoming changes do not solve the problem, even though the government has stated that the new measures are intended to protect Temporary Foreign Workers from abuse and exploitation.”

“It seems clear to us that the changes are geared towards employers’ interests and ensuring that migrant workers don’t stay in Canada,” stated Ms. Yamamoto. “Abusive employers and recruiters are still not being held accountable. The government must implement a mandatory monitoring system for employers and recruiters of Temporary Foreign Workers, in order to ensure they are not being exploited in Canada.”

Temporary Foreign Workers provide cheap labour, but are offered few protections. Employers who fail to comply with their obligations towards the workers are rarely penalized. Workers are also denied access to many important services such as language instruction, and in most cases to permanent residence in Canada.

Canada is increasingly using Temporary Foreign Workers to fill permanent jobs. The number of workers admitted to Canada on temporary visas has doubled in recent years. Traditionally Canada has welcomed immigrants on a permanent basis, with most becoming citizens. The shift to temporary migration marks a dramatic change in Canadian immigration policy, yet there has been little public debate.

The Canadian Council for Refugees believes that Canada should use immigration as a nation-building strategy and give migrant workers access to permanent residency, rather than using them as a disposable source of labour.

For more information please see backgrounder.

Contact: Colleen French, Canadian Council for Refugees: 514-277-7223 ext. 1, 514-476-3971 (cell), email cfrench@ccrweb.ca

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Backgrounder: Temporary Foreign Worker Program Regulatory Changes April 2011

 Principal changes to be implemented April 1st 2011:

  • Two-year ban on employers who are found to have significantly violated the terms of their agreement with the worker. The assessment of employers takes place when the employer applies for a new work permit application. There are many ways for the employer to reverse a negative assessment.
  • Four-year limit on the stay of Temporary Foreign Workers, followed by a four-year period during which they are not allowed to work in Canada.
  • More rigorous assessment of the genuineness of an employer’s work offer.

What are the shortcomings of these changes?

  • While these changes were announced as measures to protect workers from exploitation, there is still no mandatory monitoring system to uncover cases of abuse. The current mechanism for monitoring employers is an entirely voluntary Monitoring Initiative launched by HRSDC in 2009. A voluntary monitoring system is not effective.
  • The four-year limit on migrant workers ensures that a revolving door of migrant workers willing to accept inferior wages and working conditions will be available to Canadian employers.

Time-limits on migrant workers are intended to reinforce the temporary nature of the program. However, much of the labour demand is permanent. Addressing long-term labour needs via short-term “disposable” labour creates a two-tiered society, with a growing population of workers who have fewer rights than others, treated as useful only for their labour.

CCR considers that:

  • The government must implement a mandatory monitoring system for employers of temporary migrant workers, and pursue prosecutions of those who violate the law.
  • Any time limits should be placed on employers, not workers, to prevent employers from using temporary workers with fewer rights to meet long-term labour demands.

For more information, please visit: http://ccrweb.ca/en/migrant-workers