Little interest shown in temporary foreign labour

The territory's announcement of its new Temporary Foreign Worker Program was met with controversy last month as critics expressed concern that businesses would hire migrant workers over Yukoners.

The territory’s announcement of its new Temporary Foreign Worker Program was met with controversy last month as critics expressed concern that businesses would hire migrant workers over Yukoners.

But it appears the local workforce needs not to worry, at least for now. The main industries that were targeted when the program was designed in 2008 – namely, the hospitality, tourism and mining industries – all indicate they have no plans to recruit temporary foreign workers in the near future.

Mining companies have been especially under the radar after media coverage exposed H.D. Mining International for recruiting Chinese workers to their coal mine in Tumbler Ridge, B.C., last year.

However, at the moment no mines need temporary foreign workers. “If we exhaust the labour force that’s here, we still have people in the communities that are available for labour. As we know of course, the industry has been suffering for the past couple of months here in the Yukon. At this time I don’t think we need any foreign workers,” said Mike Kokiw, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

Mines have also invested in training the local workforce to learn how to mine by funding Yukon College’s new mining program, he said.

Hiring locally has higher benefits for mines. “It’s much cheaper to have a local workforce than to be flying people in and out. Unless you’re flying workers en masse, it’s not really affordable,” Kokiw said.

Employers would also have to factor in upgrading foreign workers’ safety training and housing costs, he said.

Using migrant workers in larger scale operations or bigger mines could make sense, but no such mines exist in the Yukon, Kokiw added.

The Yukon Zinc Corporation, which laid off around 100 workers at its Wolverine mine in late June, plans to rehire local miners when it’s able to resume full production, said Shae Dalphond, a spokesperson for the company.

Even if migrant workers are not currently needed, Kokiw welcomes the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in case mines would need them in the future.

Heather McIntyre, the general manager of Westmark Hotel, also credited the government with being proactive in case of a labour shortage.

She was part of the consultations that took place in 2008 when the territory was looking into redesigning the program, which she said might have stemmed from a dry spell in 2006.

“It was very difficult to hire people that summer in particular – 2007 came and it was the Canada Winter Games and I think we got a whole lot more exposure,” she said.

However, as the economy is yet stuck in another downturn, she won’t be looking for temporary foreign workers any time soon either. Plus, since 1990, the Westmark has been hiring students from vocational colleges in B.C., Ontario and P.E.I. that offer a hospitality program, McIntyre said.

Northern Vision, which owns four major hotels in the territory, constantly needs workers, said CEO Richard Thompson. The real estate company owns the Edgewater, High Country Inn, Best Western Gold Rush and the Downtown Hotel in Dawson.

Northern Vision has not yet looked into the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, he said.

Even the retail industry doesn’t seem interested in the program. Dwayne Lesiuk, Canadian Tire’s general manager, said that they have enough workers on staff.

But the company has recruited many workers from abroad through the Yukon Nominee Program, which allows the workers to eventually apply for permanent residency, unlike the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Canadian Tire has brought in around 60 workers since it opened in 2007, Lesiuk said. Most of the migrant workers came from the Philippines, a few from Japan, and two from Germany.

“We are really fortunate holding on to the original workers we brought over and (have had) increasing success finding locals.”

Contact Krystle Alarcon at

krystlea@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

City of Whitehorse staff will report back to city council members in three months, detailing where efforts are with the city’s wildfire risk reduction strategy and action plan for 2021 to 2024. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council adopts wildfire risk reduction plan

Staff will report on progress in three months

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 25, 2020

Ivan, centre, and Tennette Dechkoff, right, stop to chat with a friend on Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. Starting Dec. 1 masks will be mandatory in public spaces across the Yukon in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Most Read