Temporary foreign workers : New rules in Canada

Canadian companies are confronted with restrictions related to hiring of temporary foreign workers. The procedure could be relaxed: Ottawa has announced a series of changes to the federal temporary foreign workers program.

Federal Minister for Employment Jason Kenney recently said that amendments would be made to the Federal Temporary Workers Program (TFW). This second series of changes, which should be presented next April, provides for an acceleration of the hiring process for temporary foreign workers, but with certain conditions. These changes will in fact only concern trades and worker profiles for which there is a shortage. On the other hand, the process will only be relaxed in provinces in which the unemployment rate is relatively low and where the needs for qualified labour cannot be satisfied.

More specifically, this second round of changes should accelerate the opinion process relating to the impact hiring a temporary worker from abroad will have on the labour market, made by federal civil servants. Access to the TFW program should be greatly facilitated where there is a proven skills shortage. However, regions affected by a high unemployment rate will not be put in the same boat: Minister Kenney explained that he has no interest in accelerating applications for opinions on low wage jobs.

Willingness to appease businesses

The amendments to the legislation are explained in part by the abuses noted by the Minister of Labour in application of the TFW program. The other reason could be the desire to appease unions, businesses and chambers of commerce that have constantly denounced the long delays and heavy administrative burden that resulted from the first changes to the TFW program. Those involved in employment nonetheless believe that the proposed changes could disadvantage businesses located in areas where unemployment and the needs for specialized manpower are especially high. This is the case in cities such as Montreal and Toronto where the number of unemployed is higher that the national average while workers with expert profiles are rare.

And although some have welcomed the government’s willingness to tackle the problems of abuse relating to the TFW program, others have indicated that the changes would not resolve the problem of hiring temporary foreign workers wisely. For its part, the American union AFL-CIO has pointed out that improvements should be made in terms of training of Canadian workers. According to Robert Blakely, Director of Canadian Affairs for the AFL-CIO, each time a company makes an application for hiring related to a foreign worker it should be required to finance training for Canadian workers.

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