Temporary Foreign Workers

All workers in British Columbia and Canada should be protected and have rights!

Sadly, this is not the case when it comes to the more than 70,000 Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) in BC, who come to this country beholden to an employer and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

More and more employers are applying to bring Temporary Foreign Workers into Canada to fill a variety of jobs, and increasingly are using the program for low-wage positions. This trend only serves to depress wages and invite exploitation of workers who are granted no rights on the TFW program.

Since 2005 the nature of the program has changed and its scope expanded.

In 2005, the top five occupations that were brought in under the TFW/LMO program (excluding live-in care givers) were: musicians and singers; actors and comedians; producers, directors and related occupations; specialist physicians; other technical occupations in motion pictures and broadcasting.

By 2008, the top five had shifted: food counter attendants and kitchen helpers; cooks; construction trades helpers and labourers; light duty cleaners; musicians and singers. Food and beverage workers were number six.

In 2010, 182,276 temporary foreign workers entered Canada, compared to just 110,861 in 2002. Combined with those TFWs still in Canada last year, there is reported to be close to 500,000 TFWs working in Canada today.

BC takes a disproportionately large share of the temporary foreign workers, with just under 50,000 arriving in 2012 — or close to a quarter of the national total — even though BC only has about 13 percent of the population. In BC, there are currently more than 70,000 workers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The number of TFWs is also outpacing immigration to BC. The total number of TFWs working in BC grew from 22,204 in 2003 to 74,219 in 2012. In those same years, the number of permanent residents entering the province remained at approximately 36,000 per year.

Temporary Foreign Workers are beholden to the company they work for because their work permit — and thus their “right” to be in Canada — is employer-specific.

They do not have the right to switch jobs if they are treated poorly, or receive a better offer from another local employer. If they raise concerns about safety or working conditions, they are often sent home.

BCFED Recommendations to the Government of BC

• Advocate that the Federal government immediately scale back in scope the TFW Program and end employers’ access to “low-skilled” occupations streams (NOC, C&D), excluding the Season Agricultural Worker Program and Live In Caregiver Program.
• Establish a program of support systems for TFWs, similar to Manitoba, which would include: A registry of TFWs in BC;
• A path to residency for those with long-term job prospects through the Provincial Nominee Program;
• The ability to quit a job and secure employment with another company that is allowed to employ TFWs; and
• Investigation of allegations of employer abuse of the TFW Program/workers.

BCFED Recommendations to the Government of Canada

• The entire TFWP must be immediately scaled back in scope and there must be an end to employers’ access to “low-skilled” occupations streams (NOC, C&D), excluding the Season Agricultural Worker Program and Live In Caregiver Program;
• Broaden migrant workers’ access to permanent residency status;
• Establish a transparent public registry and licensing system for employers, brokers and immigration consultants accessing the TFW Program;
• Require objective and transparent proof of shortages including evidence of hiring, training and retention of available members of the provincial workforce; and
• Require the posting of a significant financial bond which can be used to compensate migrant workers who suffer employment standard and contract violations.

Trudeau Liberals’ temporary foreign worker changes favour employers

September 20, 2016
Vancouver - Proposals from a parliamentary committee dominated by the federal Liberal government could—if enacted—make it easier for employers to use temporary foreign workers instead of recruiting Canadian workers by paying decent wages and implementing much needed skills training programs. “There... more

Fundamental flaws of the TFW program remain unaddressed

June 20, 2014
VANCOUVER – Federal government’s changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) miss the mark, and do nothing to address the fundamental flaws of a program that depresses wages and leaves workers vulnerable. “These changes are an admission that the TFWP that the... more

Harper Government’s Half-Hearted Announcement on TFWs in Food Services Does Nothing to Protect TFWs from Ongoing Employer Abuse

April 25, 2014
Vancouver, BC - Yesterday's Government of Canada announcement that it would suspend the Temporary Foreign Worker Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) in the food services sector would do nothing to protect current TFWs from abuse nor would it put unemployed Canadians back to work. The Government of Canada... more

BCFED Welcomes Investigation of Foreign Worker Permits for BC Coal Mine

November 5, 2012
The BC Federation of Labour is welcoming reports that the federal government will investigate the circumstances that have allowed HD Mining to import foreign workers for mining jobs in BC.