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The long-running controversy over the federal government's temporary foreign worker program sprang back to life when the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour asked why Ottawa thought it necessary to drop provisions banning employers convicted of a serious crime from employing foreign workers.
SFL president Larry Hubich compared the "great fanfare" with which the federal Conservatives announced the foreign worker program changes with how they quietly dropped this ban over the holidays.
"They've given us no confidence that they're going to enforce what they have there now," he said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the provincial government reiterated its commitment to getting workers into vacant jobs, citing recently passed legislation giving what it called "unparalleled protection for foreign workers while they are in the process of immigrating to the province or are being recruited to work here."
In a notice on New Year's Day, the federal government said its original proposals aimed at banning employers convicted of human trafficking, sexually assaulting an employee or causing the death of a worker were "too rigid and cumbersome," The Canadian Press reported.
Instead, it offered amendments "that achieve the objective of ensuring a safe workplace" for foreign workers and allow for abuse to be addressed more quickly.
"Accordingly, 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." But Hubich was skeptical Tuesday, saying that despite a federal pledge to create a registry of employers
who've mistreated temporary foreign workers, "there's not a single company on it."
"Everybody knows that there are many, many companies that should be on that list."
CP also reported Ottawa's proposed changes let government officials interview temporary foreign workers about working conditions and demand documentation from employers proving they've complied with the federal program.
Federal officials can conduct workplace inspections for a period of six years from the first day of employment of a foreign worker. Work permits will be revoked if an employer is discovered to have provided false information that "is having or will have a significant negative effect on the labour market in Canada," CP added.
Fighting off an SFL request for an explanation for its role in seeking changes to the rules, the provincial government cited the 2013 passage of its Foreign Worker Recruitment and Immigration Services Act, plus a memorandum of understanding on immigration with the Philippines, our largest source of immigrants.
The government also said "the Canadian Labour Congress wrote a letter in support of Saskatchewan having the best protectionof-foreign workers legislation in Canada."
The new provincial legislation requires immigration recruiters and consultants to be licensed, and sign "open and transparent" contracts with employers and foreign nationals.
It requires employers to be informed of their obligations, prohibits them from recovering their recruitment costs from foreign nationals, and bans "unethical conduct," such as withholding documents or other property, threatening deportation or providing misleading information.
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