The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canada's business community nervous about Tory 'wage floor' idea on TFWs

  • Print

OTTAWA - The business community is reacting with apprehension to the federal government's consideration of a so-called wage floor as it ponders new fixes to its troubled temporary foreign worker program.

At a closed-door meeting with stakeholders earlier this week, Employment Minister Jason Kenney presented various options to tighten the program.

They included measures that would prevent companies from paying temporary foreign workers less than a set wage level yet to be determined. That wage floor would be aimed at making it more difficult for employers such as low-paying fast-food restaurants to access the program, the stakeholders were told.

No final decisions on the proposals have been made, but one of those stakeholders was nonetheless unimpressed.

"Minister Kenney is not known to be a union sympathizer, but some of his recent language would make you wonder," Dan Kelly, head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said in an interview Friday.

Kenney has called upon businesses, particularly fast-food restaurants, to raise wages if they can't find Canadian labour in their communities.

The latest proposals floated by his department have struck some in the business community as yet another startling example of traditionally business-friendly Conservatives interfering in how corporations choose to do business.

The wage floor idea essentially amounts to banning major sectors of the economy from hiring temporary foreign workers, including those in regions with labour shortages, Kelly charges.

"It would basically cut out large chunks of the labour force. Retail, hospitality, the service sector, the restaurant sector — these are Canada's largest employers and the government appears to be tiering the program so that it's only available to very highly skilled occupational categories."

He added that employers already have to pay temporary foreign workers above minimum wage in many communities.

Stephen Cryne, head of the Canadian Employee Relocation Council, is also uncomfortable about the wage floor.

"Leave it to market forces." said Cryne, who was also at the meeting. "There are lots of ways of doing that — collective bargaining, industry demand, economic cycles, those are the things that determine wage rates."

Cryne added that he wonders why the government isn't cracking down on the almost 60,000 workers, aged 18 to 35, who come to Canada every year under the International Experience Canada program without a skills assessment or wage regulations.

"If they want to close something up, isn't that one area that they should looking at?"

Darrell Kopke, founder of consulting firm Institute B, works with several organizations that have had to hire temporary foreign workers due to a scarcity of local job applicants.

"The vast majority of businesses are small- to medium-sized businesses, and many of them struggle just to get by; it's tough to do when you don't have a workforce," he said.

"Let's have better enforcement, not abolishment. We need to be aware of the needs of the small-business owners who are creating the vast majority of jobs in Canada."

In the stakeholder meeting on Thursday, government officials also floated the possibility of significantly higher fees for companies seeking temporary foreign workers. Those fees would be on par with what American companies are charged to hire such employees, the meeting was told.

Canadian companies currently face a $275 fee to apply to hire temporary foreign workers. In the U.S., employers can pay as much as $2,300 to access the American program.

The government also raised the possibility of exempting areas of the country with full employment from any crackdown measures.

Kenney has been on the hot seat for weeks as fresh allegations have surfaced about abuses of the temporary foreign worker program by various companies, but particularly those in the food services sector.

Last month, he placed a temporary ban on restaurants that prevents them from accessing the program and a new slate of rule changes are going to be announced soon.

The temporary foreign worker program has ballooned under the Conservatives from about 100,000 people in 2002 to as many as 338,000 now working across the country. In 2013 alone, Ottawa approved approximately 240,000 temporary foreign workers.

Follow Lee-Anne Goodman on Twitter at @leeanne25

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Drew Willy says team couldn't get anything going

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JJOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-Postcard  Day-Horror frost and fog created a most beautiful setting at Assiniboine Park Thursday morning in WInnipeg- Enviroent Canada says the fog will lifet this morning and will see a high of -7C-  JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Feb 18, 2010
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- WINTER FILE. Snowboarder at Stony Mountain Ski Hill. November 14, 2006.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you miss Grandma Elm?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google