TORONTO – The federal Conservative government is showing it is not serious about fixing the discredited Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.
“It has been four months since the Conservatives promised a review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program due to public outrage over abuses associated with the program,” said USW Canadian Director Ken Neumann.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the Conservatives’ promise was little more than a cynical attempt at damage control,” Neumann said. “We have seen first-hand that this government has no interest in meaningful consultation and a full, transparent review of this program.”
The Steelworkers union has publicly exposed major problems with the federal program, including the Conservatives’ consent to the HD Mining company to hire temporary foreign workers for British Columbia mining jobs.
The scandal prompted Human Resources Minister Diane Finley to acknowledge “problems” with the program and to announce a review last November.
After seeing no concrete action from the Conservative government for months, the Steelworkers and other concerned stakeholders received a short-notice invitation to a “consultation” meeting on Feb. 27 in Ottawa.
Finley and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney attended the brief meeting, but “they did not allow meaningful opportunity to present evidence and submissions on this important issue,” said Neumann.
“We were very disappointed in the way the process worked. It looks to us like the government wants to say it ‘consulted’ with unions and others, without giving stakeholders a real opportunity to be heard,” he added.
“We hoped to discuss the very issues that Minister Finley said she was concerned about in November, including how HD Mining got permission to hire temporary foreign workers when there are qualified miners out of work in B.C. who could have been hired,” said Neumann. “But their process did not allow for that.
“We’re concerned this so-called review is turning out to be a sham.”
Steelworkers and other worker representatives at the meeting said the government should scrap the existing program and support employers to hire and train workers within the existing labour market.
“At a time when many young people and aboriginal Canadians are out of work or are employed in low-skill, low-paying jobs, it is shameful that this government is allowing employers in Canada to hire foreign workers under this program,” Neumann said.
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