Column: Minister speaks on temporary foreign workers

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Federal freeze on temporary foreign workers in restaurants is bad for customers, workers, and Alberta

by Thomas A. Lukaszuk,
Minister of Alberta Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour

The federal government has stopped foreign workers coming to Canada to work in the food service sector while it conducts a review. I believe that this decision, particularly if the review stretches into months, will have a negative impact on our communities and our province.

The Government of Alberta agrees with the Government of Canada on a number of important points. Canadians and Albertans must have first access to all jobs here, and those who work must be given every opportunity to do so. The federal Temporary Foreign Worker program has rules, and it is important that they be followed. There have been some recent incidents in the food services sector, and those situations should be dealt with.

However, we have concerns about the federal moratorium. First, it is unfair to freeze an entire sector because there are problems with a few players. Second, Alberta’s economy is strong. Unemployment here is below five per cent, which is significantly lower than in other parts of the country. There are employers who cannot find people, and there are people who cannot find jobs. Alberta has job fairs, websites and programs for both groups. Food services companies, unions, and workers participate in them, yet positions remain open.

When jobs remain unfilled, workers are recruited from other sectors, customer service declines, or Canadians already on staff lose shifts or jobs when restaurants close or reduce their hours. None of these results are good for the quality of life in rural communities.

There are ways for the federal government to deal with compliance problems in its TFW program. There are also ways to improve Canada’s immigration program, so that we can ensure TFWs are “permanent foreign workers” who become a permanent part of our workforce and our neighbourhoods.

I came to Canada as a child when my parents emigrated from then-communist Poland. When I arrived here, I thought we had landed in paradise because there seemed to be so many opportunities for our family. Many of the temporary foreign workers here today have that same sense of optimism about the communities where they are working. They know that this province rewards those who work hard, and they are proud to be part of one of the world’s most exciting regions.

Albertans know that our province is a busy, growing, dynamic place. It is unfortunate that the federal government is choosing to compromise the people who are helping make that growth possible.

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24 Comments

  1. We are the richest problem and have the lowest minimum wage. The problem isn’t a lack of This, it’s that minimum wage isn’t a living wage.

  2. Another problem is many Albertans/Canadians feel they are above doing these jobs, and those coming to fill them are thankful to have one. I am from an immigrant family as well that came in the 50’s and worked these so called menial jobs then too, but worked hard and were never unemployed, layer off or on social assistance, back then my parents both worked two jobs!

  3. Perhaps it is time for Mr. Lukaszuk to remember that he represents the workers of Alberta as well as big business. The corporations supply his campaign funds, but he seems to forget the workers supply the votes.

    He seems very content to let Jason Kenney “carry the can” for Canadian workers displaced in northern Alberta by cheap foreign workers.

    The point Mr. Lukaszuk has been very quiet on is that those foreign workers were approved directly by the Province of Alberta without the requirement of a LMO as they were exempt from the LMO requirement by way of an immigration agreement with Ottawa giving that responsibility to the Province of Alberta. The Province of Alberta does not set a prevailing wage for those exempt foreign workers, nor does it monitor those employers making it very easy to displace Canadians and drive down wages. Of course those are the same corporations who fund his campaigns.

    If some businesses can’t survive without the use of the Foreign Worker Program perhaps they have to rethink their business plan. Every Chamber of Commerce across Canada is pushing for an end to the moratorium. It doesn’t seem to matter if they represent an area of high or low unemployment. They all gnash their teeth and say they need foreign workers because their region is unique. In reality those Chambers and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business are simply lobby groups representing businesses, not Canadians, trying to ensure there is an over supply of non Canadian workers available to suppress the wages of Canadians.

    Something strange has happened since the moratorium was imposed. There are reports that McDonalds, Tim Hortons, and other businesses are actually calling Canadian applicants back and inviting them for an interview. Who knew it could be so easy to hire Canadians? In most cases all that is asked from Canadians is a living wage and a respectful workplace. That is something many businesses have been unwilling to offer as long as there has been a plentiful supply of workers ready to be indentured to work for and live in company housing similar to the days when the coal mines did the same thing. The only difference is it’s against the law now to pay the workers with tokens that can only be redeemed at the Company store..

    Perhaps it’s time for these desperate businesses to start their recruitment by taking a run by the local high schools, colleges, and universities and telling the students that Canadians are now eligible to be considered for employment. When they have done that perhaps they may want to make stops at the local seniors centers, agencies that help the disabled, and have a chat with some of the local band offices. These businesses have a little reaching out to do to Canadians.

    Only after they have done that should the federal government consider lifting to moratorium on a very restricted basis.

    • Ok there sir Mr. Know-it-all. 1st, foriegn workers arent “cheap labor” coz for employers to hire foreign workers, they need to qualify on certain criteria. Just so u know, foreign workers are paid just the same as canadians do. So theres no “cheap labor” there.
      Try ordering to a timmies or mcdonald’s thats ran by canadians vs ones that has mostly foreign workers, the service is MORE faster when most of the employees are foreign workers compared if its purely canadians.
      One foreign worker is equivalent to 3 canadians (work wise) its because foreign workers multi task and work hard. So you CANT blame restaurant owners for hiring foreign workers instead.
      Look, try owning a restaurant and see it for yourself. Then maybe you’ll understand

      • that is very true Loren!thats why in every country they always hired a foreign worker becuase they are hardworking…

      • Yes, TFW’s are cheap labor. The employer may be paying them the same as a Canadian worker, but part of those wages are coming from Gov. (taxpayer) funds. TFW’s work hard, no doubt, but they have not learned to think at the same time. Look at the lineups at Timmie’s – and they are not even busy! Slow service causes those line ups, not popularity as Tim’s addicts claim.

  4. Well Sabrina – it’s not the fifties any more. Although you and other employers may enjoy the feeling of gratitude and subservience the indentured foreign workers show for the job you provide, the reality of the twenty first century is that it looks like it is time for employers to find innovative ways to fill jobs with Canadians rather than just perpetuating the stereotypical myth that all Canadian youth want to work for oil companies. Read the storys. Employers always have a stereotypical reason to give for not hiring Canadians.

    Students need jobs to pay for their education and although entry level employers have recently enjoyed the ideal of stability, the reality is that part of their community responsibility is to give back by providing training and work experience to young Canadians so they are ready to take the next step on the employment ladder. I am sure your parents taught you that as well. The fact is that there is not a labor shortage in this community. The fact that people come and go in entry level positions is not a labor shortage. It’s turnover issue and that happens in entry level jobs. Surprisingly innovative employers are seldom afflicted with this issue.

    Temporary Foreign Workers came to Canada knowing the job was temporary. They too will turn over. The fact is that these workers are not the responsibility of Canadians or the Canadian Government. Foreign Workers arrived to work on a temporary basis and neither the employer or foreign worker should anticipate their work permit would simply be renewed. Every employer who hires a low skill foreign worker signed a contract committing to pay the workers airfare to Canada and back to their country of origin at the end of the contract. I suspect this is one clause in the contract employers of low skill foreign workers did not anticipate they would have to honor.

  5. i think that other companies should also have a ban on hiring foreign workers. Holiday Inn branches )almost all owned bz the same owner) in calgary for example only hire foreign workers even though they receive many canadian resumes every day.

  6. Thanks for your stereotyping Loren. I am sure your reply has endeared you to our citizens in Morinville. Canadians come first. It’s simple as that. The moratorium is just a gentle reminder because after four years foreign workers must leave Canada regardless of whether or not the employer wishes to retain them. The key word to the program is Temporary.

    • I do agree that temp foreign worker are only suppose to fill the gap but i have worked in 2 major fastfood restaurant in a sub urban place in sherwood park. I was the hiring manager and the ad in our windows, door and even putting flyers in the take out bag did not attract any applicant.there might be some interested but they doesnt last long because fastfood is not for everybody cup of tea.i have to train an employee for 3 weeks the most and mostly cant even finish the training and will quit.it was very frustrating to train and only to find out, trainees quit the next day.the miney, effort, time and energy are all wasted.

      I also support that wages should be increase in food sector in order to sustain living expenses. Otherwise people will never look T themselves working a fastfood making 10/hr.

        • Sadly, for Canadians, these unskilled poor working conditions etc. jobs are just a stepping stone to their much better future, and only fill the gap for them to get a real education and a solid future, but these jobs are a huge success? for foreigners and they work like slaves to get and keep them. The TFW’s must remember that their desperation is not the fault of Canadians, but the fault of them and their countrymen for such a screwed up country they come from, economically. You made it, and if you are stuck there because we won’t change our country to fit your needs, so be it. You are not a driving force of anything, except small unimportant businesses that cater to people who can do business elsewhere. If Tim’s closes at night because the owner can’t compete, there are other places to get coffee. For Canadians, this is your incentive to get an education, or you will end up flipping burgers forever. Life will go on, with, or without those VISITORS who want us to bend for them.

          • 1st of, I dont work in a fastfood. Im voicing out on their behalf. 2nd learn the diffrence of VISITORS, TFWs and PRs.
            I guess most Canadians arent aware that MOST of these TFWs who work at these fastfood chains are more educated than most Canadians. Ask some of them. Some are Engineers (with degree) some are teachers (with degree) some are dentists (with degree) and so on.. Why are they workin in such “unskilled positions” when they can just apply for “skilled positions”. Its easier to apply for an unskilled position and work your way up. But unlike Canadians, their aim is to stay in Canada permanently. How? They have to prove that they are an asset. They work hard to prove their worth. Not bec they are slaves but because they know their worth. Their employers can help them by sponsoring them to certain programs that each province has.
            They dont work their a$s off for nothin. What motivates them are their families. Most of these TFWs are family-oriented. They work away from their children and loved ones, they keep themselves busy so they dont get homesick. They get treated like crap coz most CAnadians think theyre illiterate just because they work in a shitty workplace and all they do is “flip burgers which even anyone can do”

          • Hahaha, that’s funny! They come here with so many degrees…and I have been to these 3rd world countries, I know how real those degrees are. They are giving degrees at the high school level in one of those countries that many TFW’s come from. That’s why the Canadian Government does not take them seriously, they are not worth the paper they have been printed on – in most cases, a home computer and printer. By the way, most of the abuses have been reported from businesses that are owned and run by people also from the same 3rd world countries, so obviously these employers know that they can frequently get away with the abuse, when they TFW’s usually have said nothing, until now, when the abuse has been going on for many, many years.

  7. Tfw are goin home bec there is no job here for us,lmo s are very limited now,we dont have money to buy food,to pay our rent and etc..tfw might as well leave and try our luck in japan,england,australia,dubai and some other countries that needs our services,some employers here are cruel,some dont give us chance to process our p.r. coz they thought once we get our p.r. we will leave the company,some dont give raise for two and a half years instead of giving us raise and work on our p.r. theyl hire again and look for a way to fire us.

  8. When I started in the food service industry a few years ago almost everyone I worked with was Canadian. With in two years there was only four of us left on our shift. The company we worked for never quite broke the law but they kept pushing the boundaries over and over again until we were pushed to the breaking point and left. All of us had enjoyed and been quite happy with our employment until they started pushing those boundaries.
    I remember when I found out that the TFWs that I worked with were paid on average $2 more an hour to start then I was making after a few years with the company. The head office of the chain I worked for had a policy that stated that part-time employees could be promoted up to a shift manager position. Yet the franchise owners made a rule stating that you could not be promoted at all unless you were full time. They then went and cut the hours of the Canadians so that the TFWs could get the full time hours and the management positions they needed to qualify for the program. As a result Canadians lost hours, positions, and were no longer counted as full time and therefore lost benefits and promotions. Then there is the housing and vehicle allowance made for the TFWs. I know a lot of students and even some non-students who would love to be given the opportunity to have help with finding and obtaining a home and car. Why are these programs not offered to Canadians?
    Then there are the abuses our employer used against the TFWs. Many of them, when we explained what was in the employment standards, were to afraid to speak up because they would lose their homes, jobs and everything else. Many of them where “asked” to work eight to twelve hour shifts with no breaks. While the company was cutting the hours of the Canadians they were complaining to the TFWs that they were short staffed and they needed them to work more. I don’t know how that works, but it made it so they could get approval for more TFWs.
    A friend who still works there told me that a month ago a Canadian came in to apply for work and was told, “Sorry we’re not hiring.” Later that day the owners were showing government officials through trying to get approval for 40 more TFWs.
    I love the people that I worked with. Both the Canadians and the TFWs. But there is great abuses of the system. The program itself was supposed to be temporary. In truth companies want a free market system but they don’t want to take any responsibility in it. If a company can not survive, whether because of lack of staff, or lack of customers they are supposed to go out of business in a free market system. That is what keeps it going.
    Unfortunately once again it’s not the big businesses which contribute to the majority of the abuses happening that are going to be hurt by this. But the innocent workers, both Canadian and Foreign. Oh and the consumer as this gives the companies the fuel to say, “oh we have to pay our employees more so we have to raise prices.” All while they continue to make hundreds of millions of dollars in profit each year.

    • That’s right ive’d notice that too! I lost job and I’m trying to apply and I’m a foreign worker too when I recieve my open worked permit I applied at difference stores and agency they just posted a job n kijiji just haft a minute ago and when I call them they told me somebody got the job how come in haft a minute they hired already? Just because they have a rules to follow to make an add for a month before they will aprove for an LMO so meaning they posted a job hiring not for a a Canadian or permNent resident who will willing to take the work but for those tws who need an LMO to come here! The employer has abused the program as well as the recruitment agencies and they ask the tws to pay lot of money n exchange for an LMO

    • Bottom line is, in Alberta, if you are not earning the wage you THINK you need to live on, get an education, otherwise you will be stuck going nowhere in an unskilled place like a fast food joint. Why should these jobs pay any more than minimum wage? Any idiot can make coffee and flip burgers. You must be better than that.

  9. just let the government decide on what they want to do because everyone has a point of interest we don’t need to comply or getting be upset for what we comment in here may the best way are think what it was the better solution can be fair to others and to the foreign workers

  10. Hello everyone
    I am new in canada I come from dubai I was working in hotel as chef the employer who give me job in canada he is big lier he promised me many thinks when lund in Toronto he ask me to come to alberta as he didn’t tell me that I said it okay I went to edmonton .He told me before he will come to airport but he didn’t not I call him he said that he is out of the conntry he talld me go by bus to slave lake I was very sad as I lost my job thx god I have friends in Toronto I went back to them now the issue I find many job as cooks chef but I don’t know how I changed from the current employer And how I find someone who have LMO please I need help Thank you

  11. IT’S JUST LIKE A COMPETITIONS, CANADIANS VS. T.F.W( Temporary Fucking great!!! Workers) IT’S NOT OUR FAULT IF EMPLOYERS PREFER US OVER YOU, BECAUSE WE ARE HARDWORKER NOT HARDLY WORKING LIKE YOU, NOBODY WILL BET ON A SLOW HORSE!!!!. IT IS PROVEN WORLDWIDE THE KIND OF US , ARE THE ESSENTIAL DRIVING FORCE OF A BUSINESS

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