Yukon employers may now recruit migrant workers through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
The education department, which handles immigration in the territory, announced that Citizenship and Immigration Canada has approved the TFWP for Yukon employers this morning at a press conference.
The main industries that might need seasonal, temporary workers are the tourism and mining industry, Minister of Education Scott Kent said.
The program was “three years in the making,” after consultations with business owners, said immigration manager Marius Curteanu. Asked who exactly wanted the TFWP, considering the Alexco mine has recently complained about the cost of flying employees into the territory, Curteanu did not name any specific employers. “We just administered the program, it’s an employer-driven program,” he said.
Unlike many other provincial jurisdictions, employers in the Yukon do not have to apply for a Labour Market Opinion, which demonstrates a lack of local workers in the industry a migrant worker will be recruited to. Instead, employers will be able to expedite the process.
However, local workers will be given the first chance at the jobs by requiring employers advertise available jobs for four weeks before resorting to the TFWP.
Any exploitation of the migrant workers will be prevented by working “closely” with the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, a press release form the education department states. It’s also “unique,” in that other jurisdictions do not have such a relationship with workers’ compensation boards, it adds.
Workplaces would be inspected before the migrant workers arrive, ensuring labour standards are being met, said Kurt Dieckmann, director of occupational health and safety.
Critics argue that workers are afraid to complain about safety conditions or labour standards because of their temporary status in Canada. Asked if the board would go into workplaces regularly or only when a worker complains, Dieckmann said they will only go “when notified.”
“Whether they’re a temporary foreign worker it does not really matter, the safety of all workers concerns us. What this (partnership) does is it provides us the opportunity to know where the temporary foreign workers are coming in,” he said.
The pilot project will be examined for a year with the possibility of an extension.
The announcement comes after media covered an RBC scandal in April that revealed around 45 Canadians were replaced by migrant workers through the TFWP to cut costs.
In the wake of the scandal, CIC announced that companies can no longer pay workers less than the wages paid to Canadians.
The TFWP is also known for the abuse it allows in other parts of the country. One infamous case is of 77 Filipino restaurant workers at various Denny’s franchises in Vancouver who filed a class action suit for not being paid over-time, not receiving the promised hours in their contracts, and having to pay around $6,000 each to a recruitment agency and their own airfare, which should be covered by the employer. Denny’s settled the case for $1.3 million with the workers in March.
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