TFW fees no barrier to exploitation

Low-wage employers won’t be deterred by change to guest worker program

Edmonton – A $275 processing fee for employers will not stop the exploitation of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs).

The Alberta Federation of Labour which is one of the most prominent critics of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, pointed out that the fee ends up costing the employer about three and a half cents per hour, when amortized over the four years a worker stays in Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

“A lot of these low-wage employers in the service sector will happily pay that for a worker who is willing to work for less for years and is too vulnerable to complain,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “$275 is a drop in the bucket and will not provide a significant disincentive to any employers who are trying to keep wages low.”

The processing fee came into effect on August 1, along with a series of marginal changes to the program that were announced in April. The changes included increased advertising from two weeks to four weeks, elimination of the 15 per cent pay gap for TFWs, and a requirement that employers assure the government that bringing in a TFW won’t adversely affect the local economy.

“Leaving the determination of whether TFWs are adversely affecting the economy in the hands of employers to see if Canadians are being displaced is laughable,” McGowan said. “Low-wage employers can’t be relied upon to protect the public interest.”

Over the past decade, the number of Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada has ballooned to more than 340,000. TFW permits have been granted regardless of economic circumstances, and in many cases, even when there were Canadian workers looking for work. A series of scandals involving employers who are abusing the system has made the program a political hot topic.

“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which has been greatly expanded since the Conservatives took power in 2006, is discredited, and has lost public support,” McGowan said. “They’re hoping these changes will make it palatable, but Canadians know exploitation when they see it. Canadians don’t want to see the creation of a permanent non-voting underclass of workers who don’t have the same rights as other residents of the country.”



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail