Ottawa’s long-awaited changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program came into effect Dec. 31, 2013, but the new regulations are not without controversy.
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The federal government’s long-awaited and much talked about changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program came into effect Dec. 31, 2013.
But like everything associated with the TFWP, the new regulations are not without controversy.
Raising the ire of some critics is the Conservative government’s decision to drop the regulation that prevented employers — who had criminal convictions in human trafficking; sexually assaulting an employee, or causing the death of an employee — from applying for workers under the TFWP.
“It’s absolutely unconscionable that the government would drop this,” said Naveen Mehta, general counsel for the UFCW, one of Canada’s largest private sector unions. “From my point of view there should be a consequence for bad behaviour. And those employers should not have access to the program.”
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What’s more, Mehta said the regulation changes overall are nothing more than a “smokescreen” and will do little to protect the rights of Canadian workers or foreign temporary workers.
“These are purely PR responses for a government that wants to get re-elected . . . . In the big picture to me these regulations are a big zero,” he said.
The federal government said in the Canada Gazette it decided to drop the provision because it was “too rigid and cumbersome” to be enforced, adding that other amendments have been introduced to protect TFWs and ensure a safe workplace.
“The amendments include a condition on employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a workplace free of abuse, including physical, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse,” the government said.
The new regulations also include tougher compliance by employers when it comes to Labour Market Opinions and inspection powers for the federal government. The federal government will also have the authority to suspend or revoke LMO’s or refuse to process LMO applications, to revoke work permits or suspend processing of work permits,
“These changes to the TFWP demonstrate the Government of Canada’s ongoing commitment to protect vulnerable foreign workers from the risk of abuse and exploitation,” said Eric Morrissette, a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada.
And Morrissette said they “ensure that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs — these additional amendments help ensure that Canadians are first in line for available jobs.”
The regulatory reforms come on the heels of the Royal Bank-iGate scandal that erupted last year. In April, 2013 it was revealed that the Royal Bank of Canada was going to transfer information technology work done by 45 Canadian employees to foreigners contracted by iGate, a U.S.-based outsourcing firm.
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