Temporary foreign workers creating big problems for corporate Canada

Foreign employees have existed peacefully among Canada’s native workforce for a long time without much conflict, but lately there have been legal struggles over compensation injustice as well as opportunity inequities.

A few months ago, documents surfaced providing evidence that the Harper government had been paying its temporary foreign workers much less than their Canadian counterparts. An unfortunate but perhaps unsurprising consequence is that large companies will soon be slammed with major roadblocks when bringing temporary foreign workers into their workplaces.

Foreign workers traditionally have been welcomed into the country to fill skills gaps and reduce labor shortages. The Canadian government first began focusing on immigration reform in 2006.

Why all the fuss?

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This begs the question: if temporary foreign workers have long been a part of Canada’s economic practices, why all the fuss now? It seems the growing unemployment rate coupled with the ballooning cost of living was the spark that lit the match. Faced with more severe economic pressures, Canadian citizens are starting to speak up about perceived bias regarding hiring foreign employees over local candidates.

Economic Action Plan 2014

The proposed Economic Action Plan 2014 intends to invest a little more than $11 million over the next two years toward giving Canadian citizens a fighting chance at snagging the first available jobs.

Major objectives of the legislation include suspending accelerated labor market opinions, requiring employers to raise wages for temporary foreign workers, and giving the government more discretion in turning away alien applications. Additional restrictions under the Plan include banning multi-lingual skills as jobs requirements and imposing time limits companies must search for candidates before being allowed to fill the position with a temporary foreign worker.

Help or Hindrance?

Some say the Plan will force thousands of temporary foreign workers who were hoping to stay permanently, particularly in Alberta, out of their jobs, because the new legislation will place applications to renew work permits on a permanent “pending” status. Therefore, even if enough time passes for a job to be considered fair game for companies to fill with a temporary foreign worker, most of these applicants will have long since lost their ability to remain in the country.

If the predictions are accurate, by next Spring many workers who’ve been in the country since 2011 will lose their jobs and have to move back home.

Canada’s growing pool of native job hunters would benefit from the shift, but the change could potentially devastate the lives of the “displaced” foreign workers and the well-being of their families overseas.

Still, the original purpose in creating the temporary foreign worker program has been forgotten, and some argue that for a while now companies have gotten away with abusing the program so as to reduce labor costs.

Currently, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada is continuing to grow, but this trend is unlikely to continue as Economic Action Plan 2014 goes into effect.

The agriculture industry will be untouched by the new legislation as the government has determined the labor shortages there to be genuine.

Learn about the most recent salary trends in Canada with The PayScale Index.

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