Steelworkers Call For Overhaul To Temporary Foreign Worker Program

It’s time for a complete overhaul of the Harper Conservatives’ scandal-ridden Temporary Foreign Worker Program to stop the suppression of Canadian workers’ wages and the exploitation of foreign workers, says the United Steelworkers (USW).

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) must be replaced, while temporary workers already in Canada should be eligible for open work permits so they can keep their current jobs or seek employment elsewhere, the USW says.

“We have to put an end to the Harper government’s pipeline of low-wage labour that is taking jobs from Canadians and preventing real wages from rising,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director. “And we must be sensitive to the plight of workers who were brought to Canada by employers using – and often abusing – the Temporary Foreign Worker Program,” Neumann said. “It is unfair to impose a sudden and complete suspension of the program without giving hundreds of thousands of temporary workers the right to remain in Canada.”

The USW believes that full immigrant status will eliminate the total control that employers can exert on temporary foreign workers, which has led to shameful abuses. Immigrant status will allow temporary workers to participate in the workforce with full rights and give them the opportunity to apply for permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

The USW criticizes the Conservative government’s reform efforts which provide no assurances that Canadians are given the first opportunity at jobs and which offer no protections to temporary workers, with few enforcement mechanisms to catch abusive employers.

Most abuses have come to light to as a result of media reports, rather than any effective government oversight and enforcement. Rather than addressing the issue in depth, the Harper government has been applying band-aids as a damage-control strategy.

The USW is working with the Canadian Labour Congress, other unions, immigrant groups and the NDP to develop responsible federal and provincial government immigration reforms to protect all workers in Canada.

The USW first exposed how Canadians were passed over for jobs at HD mining in Tumbler Ridge, B.C., and was the first organization to offer direct support to RBC workers who were losing their jobs that were being relocated to India. More recently the USW has assisted temporary workers complaining of abuse by employers at Tim Hortons and Subway franchises in British Columbia.

For more information on the USW’s campaign to overhaul the TFWP, visit