Regulatory changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFW) were implemented on April 1, 2011.
The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) is deeply concerned that the changes will do little to reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers and give them effective protection from exploitation and abuse.
The changes will have an impact on temporary foreign workers and on employers, and according to the government are intended to protect temporary foreign workers and strengthen the TFW Program. Instead, the changes introduce measures that punish workers rather than protect them, and do little to hold abusive employers accountable.
The Council had communicated concerns about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and senior decision-makers at Citizenship and Immigration Canada. OCASI has also called on the Ontario government to act to protect the rights of all workers in this province. We are deeply disappointed that the federal government missed the opportunity to bring meaningful change and improve protection for workers.
OCASI is also deeply concerned about the ongoing practice of using temporary foreign workers to fill permanent jobs. Canada has traditionally looked to immigration as a mechanism to meet labour market needs, giving immigrants the opportunity to become citizens and equal participants in the economic, social and political life of the country. However we are now seeing a significant increase in temporary migration. At the same time, we have seen family sponsorship numbers reduced to roughly 25% of all immigration to Canada. Immigration policy has undergone a dramatic shift away from nation-building and towards growing a ‘disposable' labour force of temporary workers who have few rights and no entitlements and who are yet an essential part of our economy.
The following are the main elements of the regulatory changes to the TFW Program (Source – Canadian Council for Refugees):
What are the Changes?
- 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 prepared to accept inferior wages and working conditions will be available to Canadian employers.
What is the change we want to see?
- 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.