- We shouldn't be surprised that the corporate sector is reacting with contrived outrage to the Cons' tinkering with a severely flawed temporary foreign worker program. But Jim Stanford points out what it would take to actually move labour standards upward rather than including Canadian workers in a race to the bottom:
(T)he Harper government is now moving to avert a political disaster in the making. Advance coverage in the Globe and Mail indicates its proposed changes will include a new fee for temporary foreign worker permits, and requirements that employers promise to step up their advertising and training to eventually recruit Canadians for the jobs.- Meanwhile, Shiv Malik discusses the latest gratuitous slaps at the unemployed in the UK - as the Cons' cousins are forcing anybody out of work to participate in utterly frivolous psychometric testing.
But those promises won’t be worth the paper they are printed on. Federal bureaucrats have no concrete basis on which to judge whether training or recruitment promises are realistic or not, let alone have power to meaningfully enforce them. So long as access to migrant labour remains open, companies can always come back complaining about “shortages.” Even today, the so-called Labour Market Opinions which must be issued before employers can tap the program are no more than a symbolic ritual; approving employers’ “training plans” will be just another rubber stamp.
If we really want employers to find qualified Canadians instead of importing cheap replacements, the whole loophole must be closed down. The low-skill window currently allowed under the program should be cancelled completely (along with the provision allowing employers to pay 15 per cent less-than-going wages). There is absolutely no legitimate reason unemployed Canadians can’t be tapped to fill every one of those jobs: from coal mines to factories to hotels to donut shops. Employers in these industries tap the program only as a handy source of cheap, compliant labour. This whole section of the program gives the lie to the claim that we need migrant workers for their “skills” in the first place.
For genuine, specialized high-skill vacancies, the guest worker program must only be used as a temporary stop-gap, with hard caps on both numbers and length. Specialists should be allowed in for six months only, with a maximum of one renewal. That gives employers ample time to recruit Canadians – so long as they are willing to pay them. Employers who use the program for skilled-trades positions must set up their own apprenticeship programs to meet future needs.
Every migrant should be entitled to normal employment rights (including access to EI and CPP benefits), as well as having access to normal immigration opportunities. After all, if their skill truly cannot be replaced from within Canada, then they should be invited to live and work here like the rest of us, with full legal protections (instead of being fenced off in low-wage, unpoliced job ghettos).
Finally, full transparency should be required – regularly publishing which employers hire temporary foreign workers, in which jobs, and for how long. Apart from providing unemployed Canadians with a valuable source of information on job opportunities, this sunshine would help ensure that companies use the program for true skills shortages only.
- And Dr. Dawg offers a modest suggestion as to how outsourcing could actually benefit workers in less-developed countries. (Needless to say, I don't see our corporate overlords taking him up on the proposal.)
- Mike de Souza reports on the Cons' latest decision to eliminate any environmental assessment of major projects ranging from pipelines to chemical explosive plants. Which fits nicely with Justin Ling's interpretation of the Cons' agenda - but doesn't exactly provide reason for confidence among those of us paying attention to what laissez-faire zealotry is doing elsewhere.
- Finally, Sean Reardon discusses how income inequality - particularly between the middle class and the plutocrats - is translating into inequality of opportunity through educational outcomes.