Though the abuses started several years ago, the importing of low-wage Chinese miners by HD Mining International to B.C. late last year and the CBC’s recent revelation on Go Public that the Royal Bank has been laying off skilled, full-time Canadian IT workers and replacing them with temporary, imported low-wage Indian workers has set off a firestorm in the Canadian public, as it comes to grips with the fact that not only are Canadian employers anxious to wipe out their Canadian workforce, but the Conservative government has been busy helping employers do their worst.
There’s no better “fresh” example of just how depraved corporate Canada can get when given a free hand to exploit workers than the spectacle of members of the billionaire Weston family, which controls the Loblaws grocery chain and its discount “Joe Fresh” clothing line, appearing at sparkling social events in tuxedos and gorgeous ball gowns, knowing their empire is built in part on the smashed, not-so-fresh corpses of Bangladeshi seamstresses who’d been earning — until last week’s building-collapse catastrophe — 14¢ an hour making Joe Fresh clothing in brutalized, slavish and ultimately fatal conditions in Dhaka.
The unforgettable image of torrents of blood gushing from the beautiful hotel elevator doors in The Shining comes to mind when contemplating the spirit that’s alive today in the tidy store aisles filled with Joe Fresh apparel.
The Conservative government has scrambled to address the outrage of Canadians, and has just unveiled some changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley, who jointly oversee the TFWP, called them the biggest changes to the program in a decade.
According to the changes, employers now must pay temporary foreign workers at the “prevailing wage” of Canadian workers instead of 15% less, as was previously allowed; the rubber stamp Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process is temporarily suspended; the Federal government will have more authority to suspend and revoke work permits and LMOs if the program is being misused; more detailed LMO applications will be created to better reveal the TFWP being used to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs; employers using temporary foreign workers will be required to have a plan to transition to a Canadian workforce; new fees are being imposed on employers for processing LMOs, and fees are being hiked for work permits so that taxpayers are no longer subsidizing employers’ costs; and English and French will now be the only languages that can be used as a job requirement.
Unfortunately a lot of this is window dressing, as the government hasn’t taken any big steps to enhance what has been minimal enforcement, or curb abuses in the “intra-company transfer” visa exemption. The intra-company transfer loophole allows employers to bring low-paid foreign workers to Canada to lay the groundwork for Canadian jobs to be outsourced overseas, and is prone to fake resumes, visa violations, discrimination against Canadians and wild promises of large savings for employers that can’t be delivered in the end.
There’s also no examination of anecdotal claims that Canadian managers have been receiving financial “bonuses” from foreign outsourcing companies for signing onto an outsourcing program for their Canadian company.
More to the point, the government has in no way committed to reducing the number of temporary foreign workers coming to Canada, which swelled to 447,000 people in 2011, even as there are today 1.4 million Canadians officially unemployed.
Indeed, the Canadian government is working to complete a trade deal with India that would increase employee mobility between the two countries.