Hiring Foreign Workers Becomes More Difficult
By Steven Meurrens *
Under the Conservative federal government, Canada’s immigration system has gone from being one that admits skilled workers immediately as permanent residents to one that admits them as temporary foreign workers first, and then “flips” them into immigrants. Given this shift, the use of the temporary foreign worker program (TFWP) has increased dramatically in recent years.
But, as the program grew, so, too, did the number of employers abusing it. The Government of Canada has recently responded by announcing several changes to the program.
The first set of changes, announced on April 29, 2013, make it more difficult for employers to participate in the labour market opinion (LMO) program, which currently represents about one-third of the TFWP. The second set of changes, announced on June 7, 2013, will impose significant burdens on all employers of foreign workers.
New restrictions to LMO
There were seven main changes the LMO program announced on April 29. First, the accelerated labour market opinion, which I have previously recommended to readers of this magazine, has been suspended.
Second, the variation to the prevailing wage rate, which allowed employers to pay foreign workers between five to 15 per cent less than the prevailing wage rate if that is what the employers paid their Canadian employees, has also been ended.
Third, the Government of Canada will be able to revoke work permits and LMOs if newinformation becomes available that suggests that the employment of a foreign worker is having a negative impact on the labour market, or if they discover that an LMO was fraudulently obtained.
Fourth, employers applying for LMOs will be required to submit plans to Service Canada to demonstrate how they plan on transitioning to a Canadian workforce over time. Service Canada will review progress made under the plans during future LMO applications.
Fifth, the cost of work permit applications (currently $150) and the cost of LMO applications (currently free) are going to increase to an as-of-yet-determined amount.
Finally, employers will be prohibited from identifying a language other than English or French as being a requirement of a position during recruitment.
Increasing the burden for employers
In addition to the above changes, the Government of Canada has proposed regulations that will impose numerous conditions on employers of foreign workers. These include that foreign workers perform the work specified in their respective job offers, that employers provide a workplace that is free from physical and psychological abuse, that employers not be convicted of certain offences during the duration of employment, that if employers made commitments regarding the hiring of Canadians to obtain LMOs that they comply with these plans, and more.
In order to enforce these conditions, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and/or Service Canada officers may now conduct workplace inspections of employers. Employers will be required to admit any officers to their premises, and to let them review any relevant documents. There is even a provision that provides that officers will be able to seize documents if employers are unable to provide access to photocopiers. As well, employers will have to attend interviews when officers request that they do so.
The unjustified failure of an employer to comply with any of the above conditions will lead to the revocation of work permits, as well as the employer being added to the employer blacklist. Anyone on this list, which is publicly available, is prohibited from hiring a foreign worker for two years.
There is no question that some of the above changes were necessary. The employer blacklist was introduced in April 2011, but, to date, no one has been added to it, despite there being almost constant media reports of the TFWP being abused.
However, I do question how some of the above changes will impact the Government of Canada’s objective of transforming our economic immigration system into one that flips temporary foreign workers into permanent residents. If these changes have the effect of completely dissuading employers from hiring foreign workers, then either Canada’s economic immigration system will have to undergo a fundamental shift (again), or shrink dramatically.
Originally published in Canadian Immigrant magazine (www.canadianimmigrant.ca).