With the recently announced revisions to the federal program, Nova Scotia seafood processing industry and Kelly Regan, province’s labour minister want the government and federal employment minister Jason Kenney to be all ears when called for more flexibility to the government’s temporary foreign worker program from Ottawa.
According to the new set of rules under this program, the employers of food and retail sector would not be allowed to hire low-wage temporary foreign workers in regions where unemployment is above six percent. Opposing this, Marilyn Clark, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association expressed her views saying that the seafood processing industry should also be treated like agriculture and remain unaffected by the changes in the federal program. “The products are seasonal and they’re perishable. When the season’s on you have to have the manpower to get these products into processing. If you don’t, you’re going to lose them.” Clark quoted expressing her grievances.
The industries of fish and lobster processing sector are already facing imminent labour shortages and labour minister Regan said that all these issues will be discussed next week in a meeting with Jason Kenney. “Some of our fish plant owners, some of our restaurant owners, some of our tourism operators are going to have a hard time finding enough staff under these new rules”, then quoted Regan after a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
While Regan said that Halifax is the only region eligible to opt out of these revisions as the employment rate here can allow foreign workers in most industries, his concern also demanded protection of temporary foreign workers. Hearing it directly from the employers, Clark revolted that despite high unemployment, it is still a challenge for some to hire locally. “We’re located in rural areas where we’re not close to labour pools,” she said. “For the most part, these jobs are hard to fill by Canadians who are looking for better opportunities.”
In an e-mail received by Jason Kenney’s spokesperson, the idea and motive behind these changes was clearly towards restoring the program to its original purpose to give employers access to a limited supply of foreign workers when there are no qualified Canadians to fill available jobs.Regan then assured that the industries having difficulty in finding workers at certain times with not have to suffer as steps will be taken to deal with the prevailing situation.
The program, phased in over a two-year period has also laid roots for more inspections and greater fines for those who abuse the program as well as an increased application fees for employers.