Uncovered documents prove employers using TFW program as a first choice rather than offering a decent wage to Canadians
Edmonton – Canadian wages are being undermined by employers who use the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program to avoid paying anything more than minimum wage.
A list obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) shows that 243 employers in Alberta are accessing the Temporary Foreign Worker program rather than paying employees more than the province’s sub-poverty $9.75 minimum wage – the lowest general minimum wage in the country.
“If employers were really using the TFW program as a last resort, rather than a first choice, they wouldn’t be paying these workers the minimum wage,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “They can’t say they’ve actually tried to hire Canadians if they’re not offering more than minimum wage.”
Of the 243 employers, the majority (58 per cent) are in the food service industry. The list includes Boston Pizza locations, Ricky’s All-Day Grills and a variety of sushi restaurants and pubs. The full list can be downloaded HERE. Most of these approved Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) will permit the employer to hire multiple Temporary Foreign Workers.
“This list shows that the TFW program is being used to suppress wages and displace Canadian workers. Anyone claiming that there’s a labour shortage is either deliberately lying, or deeply misinformed,” McGowan said. “If there’s a labour shortage, wages are supposed to be going up to attract workers to fill the vacancies.”
Under the Temporary Foreign Worker program, employers applying to bring in workers must commit to paying the prevailing wages for the type of worker they are hiring. By paying the TFWs minimum wage, these employers are admitting that paying bottom dollar is their standard practice.
“It’s an irony that the Harper Government claims to be a big defender of the free market, but it’s clear that they’re using the TFW program to undermine the Canadian labour market,” McGowan said. “The Federal Conservatives are deliberately using their power to help service-sector employers keep wages low when economic conditions suggest they should be going up.”
The documents released by the AFL also help explain why more and more teenagers and recently arrived landed immigrants are having a hard time getting entry-level jobs. According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate for youths aged 15-24 in Alberta was more than 11 per cent in May.
“For young people, low-wage jobs in the service sector have traditionally been the entry point into the labour market,” McGowan said. “But now those bottom rungs on the ladder are increasingly being filled with exploitable TFWs.”
As of September 1, the minimum wage will be increased to $9.95, but will remain the lowest general minimum wage in Canada. It will remain a wage that is well below the poverty line. Working 35 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, someone earning Alberta’s new minimum wage of $9.95 an hour will earn $18,109 a year before taxes. According to Statistics Canada, the Low-Income Cut-Off (LICO) for a single wage earner with no dependents is $23,298.
“The people campaigning against increases to the minimum wage argue that it’s a starting point, and that most people don’t stay on it. But this list of TFW employers shows that to be a lie,” McGowan said. “Because of the temporary nature of this program, these workers will likely never get a raise.”
The AFL has called for the government to institute a minimum wage that would allow those working full-time to earn a minimum of $23,298 – That would work out to $14.05 without benefits, or $12.08 with benefits.
“Someone working full-time at one of these jobs is below the poverty line. These employers are importing workers so they can be poor here,” McGowan said. “They’re importing poverty.”
AFL Backgrounder: Temporary Foreign Workers and Minimum Wage-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org