Immigration and the Slippery Slope of Wage Reduction for All Canadians

I grew up believing that in Canada that I could be proud because it was a country that had opportunities, respect and, was for the most part, fair in how it treated people. We could be especially proud in Canada because we had employment standards that took into consideration protection of human rights. We could be assured some sense of equality with respect to wages and equal pay for equal work.

In the course of a few short years with the rapid expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, we have lost ground on workplace protections and standards for all because the rules are being bent to the point of no return. Now, rules and policies appear to be segregating workers by status which is an immigration matter. In particular, I am referring to the latest changes announced April 25, 2012 to accelerate Labour Market Opinions (LMO) in 10 days for Canadian employers. Canadavisa website clearly outlines that the employers that qualify for this accelerated LMO must:

  1. Have been issued at least one positive LMO in the previous two years;
  2. Have a clean record of compliance with the LMO program within the last two years;
  3. Not have been the subject of an investigation, infraction, or serious complaint, and
  4. Not have any unresolved violations or contraventions under provincial laws governing employment and recruitment.

This announcement sounds wonderful for getting people working and getting jobs done, but this announcement came with an unexpected and unprecedented twist. The federal government introduced a wage reduction for skilled foreign workers up to 15 percent below the average local wage for that work.

To date Temporary Foreign Workers and employers have had to enter into contracts and jobs that offer prevailing wages. This wage reduction is the beginning of a slippery slope to a wage reduction that can already be seen in many business and companies around the country that already hire foreign workers. Sometimes employers pay foreign workers in Canada less than the salaries in their contracts, or hire them for their skills, but place them in jobs at a lower skill level, pay them less, yet reap the benefits of their actual skills. This is especially true in jobs related to the trade industry where trade certification is hard to attain in Canada and where employers benefit from cheap labour. Now wage reduction is legal. It can only lead to lower pay for all immigrant workers in Canada because it erodes standards.

I don’t have the real answer as to why this wage lowering took place, but we can see that temporary foreign workers in Canada will be making less money than other workers doing the same job. How can this be happening in Canada? There is an erosion of standardized practices in employment and we are compromising the foundations of rights and freedoms we have fought so hard to put in place. If someone can offer one valid reason for why wages should be lowered for specific groups of people based on status, I am willing to listen.

Please read The Globe and Mail Blog by Armine Yalnizyan: “Changes to immigration policy could transform society” May 3, 2012 for a more comprehensive story.

Tereen Andriuk
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

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