Temporary Foreign Worker Program Primer

TFWP rally



Launched in the early 1970s, and originally intended for limited high-skilled, high-paying jobs, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has grown into an economy destroying nightmare that is putting Canadians out of work and enabling the exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers.

Since 2006, the number of Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada has more than tripled. And Alberta is ground zero for the abuse of the program – and of Temporary Foreign workers.

Because Temporary Foreign Workers are dependent on the whims of their employers for their right to stay in Canada, they are at a disadvantage in terms of negotiating for fair wages, safe workplaces and respectful treatment. They face higher rates of wage theft, higher rates of workplace abuse, and often work for lower wages. 

Because some unscrupulous employers would rather hire workers they can push around and pay less, they choose not to hire Canadians. This means that Canadian workers are losing their jobs because of the Temporary Foreign Worker program. Even Canadian workers who keep their jobs face diminished wages because they face the threat of being replaced.

The Alberta Federation of Labour has been a leading critic of the program, providing analysis, research and advocacy to help curb the negative impact of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.


What should be done to the TFWP?                                    

The AFL has repeatedly called for the phasing out of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, especially in low-wage sectors, because it is driving down wages and blocking the first rungs on the job ladder which traditionally have been filled by young workers, seniors and new immigrants.


What should happen to Temporary Foreign Workers who are already in Canada?

If someone has come to Canada to work, they should have the right to build a life here. The Alberta Federation of Labour believes that no worker should be beholden to their employer for the right to stay in the country. Workers who are in Canada already should be granted permanent resident status. Then the program should be ended for good.


Don’t we need the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to deal with a labour shortage?


The Alberta Federation of Labour has tracked the use of the TFW program, and has shown conclusively that it is not being used to respond to the availability of workers, but instead being used to drive down wages. During the last recession, employers brought in workers in low-skill, low-wage jobs, even in areas with high unemployment rates.

In a healthy labour market, wages go up when there is a shortage. In the occupations where employers have made the most aggressive use of the TFW program, wages have stagnated and fallen. There is no labour shortage, what there is, is a shortage of employers who are willing to play fair and respond to market pressures.


Aren’t there rules in place to prevent abuse of the TFW program?

There are, but the rules aren’t stringent enough, the rules aren’t being enforced, and bad employers aren’t facing the consequences of their actions.

In 2013, the federal government promised proactive monitoring of Temporary Foreign Worker employers.  That has not happened. In 2012, the government launched a black-list of employers who aren’t supposed to be allowed to access the TFW program. As of 2015, there’s only one name on it.

The government keeps promising to curb the abuses of the TFW program, but employers keep finding new ways to exploit migrant workers and to put Canadians out of work.

Clearly, the TFW program needs to be scrapped altogether. 

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  • commented 2016-02-25 02:20:54 -0700
    We used to have something similar to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program over here in the UK. I currently work at the DVLA office http://www.dvla-contact-number.co.uk/ here, and we have begun phasing out the program. Many of the applicants we gave temporary work to, where very unreliable and it would annoy the senior managers. I think towards the back end of 2016 they are going to give the program one last time here at the DVLA head office and if that doesn’t work out, it will probably be cancelled.
  • commented 2015-12-01 20:43:13 -0700
    I am a temporary foreign worker my boss threatened me if I don’t do extra works like supervisory works they won’t get me a newLMIA another issue is our store is under renovation will it be ok if they transfer me to another branch even my LMIA states that I work in pincher creek..? Another issue because it’s under renovation are they obliged to pay me 40 hours a week as it was stated on my contract as a foreign worker
  • commented 2015-06-26 09:43:48 -0600
    I myself have reported several companies through the Government website and to date there has been nothing done about it, whatsoever. I personally know people in this community who have been out of work for extended periods of time and have been applying for job after job after job and do not so much as receive a call for an interview from any of the employers. It is an outrage to watch what is happening and there is nothing being done about it. I have sent in correspondence to the MLA’s office, to the Alberta Federation of Labour Office to the Alberta Labour Minister’s office and no steps have been taken towards any of these employers. The treatment of some of the applicants, if they do get an interview, by the interviewees is clearly intended to ensure that nobody would want the job. A recent ad placed on the Government of Canada Job Bank was seeking five people for warehouse positions with forklift experience for “Weekend, Days.” A Canadian received an interview. During the interview the interviewee advised the interviewer that he was available to work immediately and could work weekends. The interviewer rudely told him that "He did not get to decide what shifts he worked and that they would tell him what shifts he would work. If they wanted him to work weekend he would work weekends, if they wanted him to work nights he would work nights, if they wanted him to work extended hours in a shift he would be required to do so. The interviewee advised that he did not mind working some shift work but could not work a permanent night shift as he had other responsibilities as well. The interviewer told him that he should just keep looking then. Let me add, the facility was full of people who by the lack of English skills and ethnicity all appeared to immigrant workers, and we are certain likely through the TFWP. It is also very likely that this company recently lost several of their TFWs because they were required to leave under the rules of the program and are simply going through the motions required by the Government in order to apply for new ones. It is absolutely appalling that the Government requirements of employers to advise whether there were any Canadians qualified for the job is all based on employer self reporting is absolutely ridiculous and any idiot knows that the employers simply have to say, No, sorry, no qualified Canadian applied. People are running out of EI, they are having to apply for Income Support at $627.00 per month to cover food, shelter, utilities, gas, and all other living expenses. It is disgusting how people are being treated by employers and despite the assertions that there are training programs for unemployed or under employed Canadians to assist them to get back into the workplace, they are denied access to any of these programs.