Feds fool with Filipinos

Wait times could worsen at Whitehorse's fast-food counters, grocery checkouts and other retail outlets in the new year.

Wait times could worsen at Whitehorse’s fast-food counters, grocery checkouts and other retail outlets in the new year.

For that, you can thank the federal government, and its plans to toughen up rules governing the Yukon Nominee Program, which is heavily used by Whitehorse’s service sector.

The most contentious change is a requirement that foreign workers post a $10,000 security. That’s equivalent to several years’ income for a service worker in the Philippines, from where most of Yukon’s foreign workers hail.

“We’re not happy campers,” said Ailene Gayangos, vice-president of the Canadian Filipino Association of the Yukon. “It’s a very, very good program. But with the new requirements, it’s pretty hard.”

She worries the rules may end up “killing the program.”

Local businesses are also worried.

“It’s an essential program. It must continue,” said Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

The Yukon Nominee Program should be credited with saving local businesses, which several years ago found themselves chronically short of local labour. “It was a saving grace,” said Karp.

The chamber is working with Yukon’s Department of Education, which administers the program, to petition Ottawa to reconsider the $10,000 security, which is supposed to ensure foreign workers have enough money to support themselves without work.

That’s not necessary, said Karp, noting each nominee under the territorial program is guaranteed two years’ employment with their sponsoring business.

The territory is working with Ottawa to find “creative options” to the deadlock, said Shawn Kitchen, director of labour market programs. He aims to reach an agreement by mid-January.

Karp welcomes other changes, including stricter tests to ensure foreign workers are able to speak English or French.

The federal changes come as Ottawa reacts to criticism over instances of foreign workers being mistreated by employers in several provinces.

“But it’s a different situation up here,” said Karp.

Alex Furlong, boss of the Yukon Federation of Labour, alleged this summer that two Filipino workers had been abused by Whitehorse business owners. But, at the ensuing immigration hearings, both men admitted to breaking the rules, and were consequently deported.

While most of Yukon’s foreign workers hail from the Philippines, others originate from India, Mexico, China, as well as developed nations such as Germany, France and Japan.

The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce estimates there are approximately 500 such workers in the territory.

Foreign workers often have professional designations. So, after serving out their work term with their service-sector sponsor, they typically move on to better-paying work, said Karp. Without new workers to fill these vacancies, Whitehorse businesses will probably struggle.

Business must first try to hire locally. But the sad reality is that many of Yukon’s unemployed don’t have the ability or will to hold down a service-sector job, said Karp.

Employers pay the airfare and three months’ health insurance for foreign workers. They must also find them housing. And they pay foreign workers well above the minimum wage – Tim Horton’s, for example, usually starts its foreign workers at $11 per hour.

Another new rule handed down by Ottawa will impose a $2,000 security for each family member of a foreign worker who is brought over to the Yukon. That will prove to be a hardship, said Gayangos.

Many Filipino workers have recently brought their families to the Yukon, resulting in the ranks of the closeknit community to swell.

“Usually, I know everybody in the community,” said Gayangos. “But over the past few months, there’s quite a few faces I don’t recognize.”

It will be far harder to bring family over now.

“It’s not a very good Christmas present,” said Gayangos. “I think we’ll be feeling quite a change next year.”

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

Just Posted

Skagway Brewing Co. doubles seating, quadruples production

The new location is on Fourth Avenue, between the hardware store and the Starfire Thai restaurant

Leaders raise expectations for federal election at Yukon Forum

‘We really need to be respectful of the progress that we have made in a short period of time’

New procurement policy set to be up and running this spring

The last major procurement overhaul occurred in 1995, Mostyn said

Yukon hospital workers reach tentative deal to avoid a strike

The proposal will be voted on March 4, the union says

Longtime Yukon lawyer, former federal NDP candidate Melissa Atkinson dead at 45

Atkinson, who served as the territory’s first Indigenous Crown attorney, died the morning of Feb. 14.

German rookie wins 2019 Yukon Quest red lantern

Hendrik Stachnau was the last musher to cross the finish line

Hospital workers are prepared to strike

‘They’ve had enough’

Whitehorse mayor calls tax and fee increases reasonable

Council approved the 2019 operations budget

Team Yukon attends pep rally before heading off to Canada Winter Games

The Games are taking place in Red Deer, Alta., from Feb. 15 to March 3.

This year’s Sima Cup medals were delicious

A local bakery provided the prizes

Mushers of all sizes come out for the Babe Southwick Memorial Sled Dog Races

As the leading Yukon Quest mushers were nearing the finish of their… Continue reading

History Hunter: Mining on Dublin Gulch has a long history

A new gold mine is being developed north of Mayo that will… Continue reading

Yukonomist: Yukon carbon tax decisions

With the carbon tax coming into effect on July 1, you now… Continue reading

Most Read