Canadian employers push for more temporary foreign workers to address labour shortages

As employee shortages persist and authorities subsidies strategy their finish, a rising variety of trade teams — largely in meals companies — are asking the federal authorities to allow them to host extra momentary overseas employees to fill jobs.

Final month the Canadian Meat Council started lobbying the federal authorities to calm down its restrict on what number of momentary overseas employees can work at a Canadian meat processor, asking for the present cap of 10 to twenty per cent of employees to be raised to 30 per cent.

Eating places Canada, the nationwide food-services trade affiliation, has referred to as on the federal government to extend federal funding for immigration of potential restaurant employees, and to increase work visas underneath Canada’s Non permanent International Employee Program.

Already, in Quebec, the federal authorities has agreed to broaden this system in sure hard-hit sectors, the place employers shall be allowed to extend their consumption of momentary overseas employees in low-wage positions to twenty per cent, up from 10 per cent.

Economists and labour consultants anticipate to see this sort of strain develop within the coming months as employers with excessive job vacancies look to remain afloat post-pandemic.

The federal authorities’s key pandemic help packages are set to run out in every week, together with the extensively used Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy for companies to cowl employee salaries. In the meantime, companies in sectors like meals companies are going through a power scarcity of employees that has pushed some employers to raise their wages to fill positions.

Quickly sufficient, companies that usually depend on low-cost labour to gasoline their operations may discover themselves submitting for chapter if they’ll’t cowl employee prices, mentioned Philip Cross, a senior economist on the MacDonald-Laurier Institute.

“These low-wage enterprise fashions simply aren’t going to work on this present atmosphere. If wages go up, then costs are going to go up, and a few of these companies will go underneath,” Cross mentioned.

Canada’s Non permanent International Employee Program has lengthy been used as a controversial work-around for low-wage companies to maintain job vacancies low with out elevating wages. This system presents momentary, closed employment permits to a capped variety of overseas employees who occupy low-skilled jobs in sectors the place job vacancies are excessive, earlier than returning to their nation of origin.

The system has been the topic of a number of audits and investigations which have discovered rampant office abuse and security hazard considerations which have introduced into query the basic human rights afforded to migrant workers.

A federal audit in 2017 discovered that this system was rife with oversight issues that permit lower-paid worldwide employees take jobs that unemployed Canadians may fill, successfully permitting corporations to construct a enterprise mannequin on lower-than-legal wages.

Syed Hussan, government director of Migrant Employees Alliance for Change, says this system permits employees to be topic to exploitative situations by tying their proper to be within the nation with an annual contract from a single employer.

“You may’t converse out in opposition to a foul boss with out risking being made homeless, being kicked in a foreign country, or not with the ability to work for anybody else. The legal guidelines have constructed this precariousness,” Hussan mentioned.

A recent analysis from the Canadian Centre for Coverage Options discovered that the sectors with the very best job-vacancy charges in the course of the pandemic are additionally these with the bottom hourly wages. That features meals companies and consuming locations, lodging companies, crop manufacturing and the amusement and playing industries.

“These is perhaps the sectors that flip to momentary overseas employees as a manner of filling jobs with out having to extend wages,” mentioned David Macdonald, a senior economist with the CCPA and creator of the evaluation.

Canada’s meat processors are going through a mean job-vacancy price of greater than 10 per cent, in keeping with the Canadian Meat Council, as greater than 4,000 butcher stations sit empty at manufacturing services countrywide.

The newest labour-force survey exhibits that employment in meals companies is 14.8 per cent under its pre-pandemic stage, amounting to 180,000 workers who left their food-service positions in February 2020 and by no means returned.

The identical CCPA evaluation discovered that a lot of these employees left the trade altogether, choosing jobs with increased pay and secure hours in professional-services jobs in accounting places of work or regulation corporations.

“It’s extra evident that the employees who used to work in meals and lodging merely aren’t there anymore. It’s not that they’re staying at residence, it’s that they’ve moved onto different industries, and that would lead a few of these employers to need to broaden the momentary overseas employees program,” Macdonald mentioned.

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