Temporary foreign workers benefit southwest Saskatchewan

After recent public concerns over abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the federal government announced various reforms to the program April 29.

Swift Current immigration consultant Anika Henderson said these changes are aimed at protecting jobs and opportunities for Canadian citizens and permanent residents.
The reforms include the suspension of the accelerated Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process, a requirement that temporary foreign workers are paid the prevailing wage, the introduction of fees for processing LMOs and higher fees for work permits as well as requiring firm plans from employers to transition to a Canadian workforce over time.
Henderson has extensive experience of working with the TFWP through assisting both employers and temporary foreign workers in southwest Saskatchewan.
“There is a genuine need in the southwest for foreign workers as it really is a challenge to fill the labour gaps in this area,” she said.
She is hopeful the changes to the TFWP will not make the process too difficult and costly for employers in the region who have a real need.
“A lot of employers in the southwest are having a very difficult time filling the positions they are advertising for,” she said. “I have seen employers advertise for weeks or months without receiving a single applicant from a qualified Canadian or permanent resident applicant.”
She added these positions have been advertised with wages that meet the prevailing wage rates.
There is a wide range of temporary foreign workers in the region. According to Henderson there is a handful of agricultural workers and live-in caregivers, but the majority are skilled trade positions and service/hospitality jobs.
“The common theme that I hear from employers is that temporary foreign workers are hard working and reliable,” she said. “That is what employers appreciate and that is what makes temporary foreign workers of such value to local businesses to support their growth and sustainability.”
From her interaction with temporary workers she knows they appreciate the opportunity to live and work in Canada, even though it presents them with a number of challenges.
“No one is happy to be here only temporarily,” she said. “Every foreign worker that I know absolutely wants to have the opportunity to make Canada their home.”
They make big sacrifices to be able to work in Canada, including spending a lot of time and money on the application process, facing long periods away from their families, adjusting to life in another culture and with limited access to social benefits while they are in Canada.
She is concerned the recent media focus on the TFWP will result in negative feelings towards temporary foreign workers.
“In many cases they are filling the positions that are unwanted by Canadians or permanent residents,” she said. “In my experience, temporary foreign workers are not abusing this program. So we need to be careful to not make them the target of any debate or angst relating to this program.”
For skilled foreign workers there is an opportunity to eventually apply to become permanent residents, but it is not the case with lower-skilled positions. In Saskatchewan the situation is slightly different, as it offers opportunities for some foreign workers in the service and hospitality sectors to also apply for permanent resident status.
Most foreign workers in lower-skilled positions must leave after working for a maximum period of four years in Canada and they can then re-apply under the program only after waiting for four years.
“This doesn’t seem like a fair opportunity for foreign workers and it obviously doesn’t offer long-term solutions for employers either who are faced with continually bringing in new workers as the initial ones have to leave,” she said.
Henderson felt all temporary foreign workers should have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence, which will allow them to reunite with their families in Canada.
Her main concern about the program is that it does not offer long-term solutions for foreign workers and employers who are facing chronic labour shortages.
She would also like to see a more proactive approach to monitor the employment conditions of temporary workers, as the present system relies on complaints or reports of abuse. Her own experience in working with employers has been positive.
“The ones I am working with are paying their workers wages that meet and surpass industry standards for our region,” she said. “They have legitimately been unable to find Canadian workers and are absolutely grateful for the temporary foreign workers that they are bringing in.”
She emphasized the continuing growth of the Saskatchewan economy will rely on a larger labour force consisting of both skilled and lower-skilled workers who will mostly be coming from elsewhere.
“So it is exceedingly important for Saskatchewan that this program be improved so that it benefits not only local businesses and temporary foreign workers, but Saskatchewan as the whole,” she said.

via SW Sask News – Prairie Post – Prairie Post http://www.prairiepost.com/news/sw-sask/item/4155-temporary-foreign-workers-benefit-southwest-saskatchewan.html

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