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Federal government new rules for temporary foreign workers

Posted on May 18, 2015
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The federal government now agrees that other solutions are needed to solve the chronic labour shortage in the Canadian meat processing sector.

“In the meat industry in Canada, it is what we would more accurately characterize as a permanent labour shortage that needs to be addressed by a permanent solution,” Steven West, director of Employment and Social Development Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, said at the meeting held May 7-8.

His department is working with the meat council and Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council to understand new requirements for importing workers as well as encouraging them to look more closely at a Canadian dominated workforce.

A company’s workforce can now comprise no more than 30 percent of temporary foreign workers, and that level will be reduced to 20 percent in July and be capped at 10 percent next year.

One solution is to work with provincial nominee programs and convert those workers to permanent residents.

The meat industry has requested that butchers and meat cutters become eligible immediately for inclusion in the express entry program, which applies for permanent residence for skilled workers in managerial jobs, professional positions and skilled trades.

Provinces and territories can also recruit people from this program through the provincial nominee program to meet local labour market needs.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program came under scrutiny in 2011 when the government wanted to make sure the jobs held by imported workers were genuine and people were treated fairly.

“In many industries other than yours, that can be more of a concern sometimes,” West told the meat council.

The Canadian meat processing sector has repeatedly told government it needs permanent employees to fill jobs across the country.

“Our industry has always been an industry of immigrants. We are always trying to hire Canadians first, refugees, aboriginals, youth, but there is always about 1,000 vacancies in the industry,” said Arnold Drung, president of Conestoga Meat Packers in Ontario.

The board cited lost opportunities to add more value to meat products because packers do not have the staff. As more trade opportunities open up, packers may not be able to take advantage because there will be no one to do the specialized work required to fill orders from new customers.

Not having a full complement of workers slows company growth, and long-term planning is difficult, said Guy Baudry of Hylife Foods in Manitoba.

“Many of us exhaust our local opportunities, but we as a company are dependent on foreign recruitment and immigration program,” he said.

Money is not the issue, said Ray Price, president of Sunterra Meats in Alberta. Wages are higher than minimum wage and exceed what is offered for similar work in the United States.

“Our top skilled guys are $20 plus with good benefits packages,” he said.

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