Several Fernie businesses cater to temporary foreign workers, but the government’s recent decision to amend the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) may have dire consequences for local businesses.
This summer, Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced the need for improvements to the program, referencing businesses’ growing abuse of the program and a driving down of wages.
The abuses are not unknown to Fernie, as local and national news broke in December of last year, when Philippines foreign workers were allegedly asked to take their overtime pay out of an ATM machine and return it to their employer.
And although amendments to the program are meant to support foreign workers as a backlash against employee abuse, the revamped program would simultaneously bar employers from hiring foreign workers in areas where unemployment is higher than six per cent, it would include a harsher screening process by which foreign workers must defend their need to be hired over Canadian workers, as well as capping the number of employees that can be hired.
Our local Chamber of Commerce is speaking out against these amendments.
During a Kootenay Chambers of Commerce meeting held in Cranbrook in mid September, the Kootenay Chambers, which includes the Fernie Chamber of Commerce, collectively agreed to draft and sign a letter to the government in opposition to the changes to the TFWP.
“It would, for the most part, negatively affect this area of the country and our Chamber Member Businesses,” Rachael Fitzios with the Fernie Chamber of Commerce noted.
The Fernie Chamber has plans to meet again in either March or April of 2015, where discussion on this issue will continue.
For now, British Columbians can expect to see the TFWP divided into two separate programs; one that will continue to be referred to as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, requiring employers to prove their need for a non-Canadian worker and one referred to as the International Mobility Program, where employers will not be required to do this.