Changes Fail to Protect Migrant Workers from Exploitation, says OFL | The Ontario Federation of Labour

Changes Fail to Protect Migrant Workers from Exploitation, says OFL

Media Release
June 20, 2014
For Immediate Release

Changes Fail to Protect Migrant Workers from Exploitation, says OFL 

Temporary Foreign Worker Program Promotes Harper’s “Low-Wage Agenda”

(Toronto) The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has long called for changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), but the tinkering being put forward today by Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney does nothing to fix the program’s fundamental flaws.

“Profitable companies like Tim Hortons, McDonalds, Walmart and Canadian Tire should no longer be allowed to use this program to fatten their bottom lines,” said Sid Ryan, President of the OFL. “For too long greedy companies have been using the TFWP to avoid paying their workers a liveable wage. Meanwhile, Tim Hortons made $620 million in profits last year, while Canadian Tire raked in $383 million. ”

The changes announced today, including a cap on the number of migrant workers coming to Canada through the low-wage stream and increased fees for use of the program, will only preserve the racism and exploitation this system has created. The labour movement will continue to demand access to permanent residency for all migrant workers and a transition away from employer access to most of the lower-skilled streams.

“One of the most glaring problems that the government has failed to address is the inability of migrant workers to become Canadian citizens,” said Ryan. “There’s no way employers should be allowed to pay low wages to and exploit migrant workers, and then send them packing when they see no more use for them.”

The proposed fines of up to $100,000 for companies that break these already inadequate rules will achieve nothing if they are not enforced. The Harper government promised more inspections a year ago during the last overhaul of the program, but has failed to carry out a single inspection, as reported by the Canadian Press.

“Rather than filling temporary labour or skills shortages, this federal program is being used to drive down wages,” said Ryan. “Today’s tweaks do not change the thrust of this program and workers across the country will continue to stand up against Stephen Harper’s low-wage agenda.”

Ontario receives the largest number of migrant workers among the Canadian provinces. The top three countries of origin are Mexico, Jamaica, and the Philippines, according to HRSDC.
According to federal statistics for 2012, compiled by the Ontario Federation of Labour:

  • The number of migrant workers in Ontario increased from 90,802 in 2008 to 119,899 in 2012.
  • 17,000 different employers in Ontario applied for migrant labour through the TFWP in 2012.
  • Over 60 percent of all permissions granted to employers to hire migrant workers were for low-skilled work in 2012.