Monday, January 7, 2013

The Invisibles: Migrant Workers in Canada


Reports of exploited foreign temps have grown as fast as the federal program. First in a series.
By Krystle Alarcon, Today, TheTyee.ca
They hand you a soothing cup of Tim Hortons, pack frozen beef in factories, pick blueberries and apples on Abbotsford farms, serve fast-food meals and wipe tables, excavate mines and drill for oil in Western Canada, and raise your kids as if they were their own. Typically paid far less than Canadians, unprotected by labour laws, and disposed of when their contracts end, these migrant labourers have become ubiquitous while remaining all but invisible.

Under the Conservative government, the pool of migrant labour has expanded rapidly with almost no public discussion or oversight -- yet who benefits, and at what cost?

There were 300,111 migrant workers in Canada in 2011-- a more than three-fold increase over the previous decade. Another 190,769 entered that year, creating a temporary foreign workforce of nearly half a million. In 2010, the government accepted one and a half times more migrant workers than permanent Canadian residents.

Migrant workers have been cycling in and out of Canada since 1972, when the Non-Immigrant Employment Authorization Program was introduced. In 2002 it expanded to become theTemporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to service the oil and gas industries in Alberta.

Since the Conservative government of Stephen Harper came to power in 2006, the TFWP has expanded rapidly, becoming an unseen pillar of Canada's economic policy. That year, migrant workers admitted to Canada exceeded permanent residents for the first time. And for the first time, employers no longer had to advertise for a minimum of six weeks on a national job bank before being granted permission to hire a migrant, but could do so after just seven days. The shortened processing was a gift to employers, who were allowed to designate workers they needed under "Occupations Under Pressure."

Read more here.

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