Canada’s endless ‘cheap’ labour supply and how it must be stopped

Solidarite_sans_papiers

As this year draws to a close, we see a spike of nearly five percent of foreign temporary workers admitted to Canada over the course of 2013. 125 000 foreign temporary worker permits were issued this year in comparison to the 119 000 issued in 2012.

Since the mid-1970s, the foreign temporary worker program (FTWP) has not ceased its rapid climb in acceptance rate of foreign temporary workers. The accelerated acceptance rate of the FTWP, backed by corporate Canada and successive Liberal and Conservative governments, is publicly justified by a need to keep Canada economically competitive on the international scene.

This has been the rhetoric and the words used by the political and corporate elites to justify the complete deregulation of the Canadian labour market since the mid-1980s and also the continual expansion of the FTWP into all sectors of Canadian life. Through the expansion of FTWP, anti-union and anti-labour lobbies throughout Canada have seen the stagnation of Canadian wages and the power of organized labour hit a wall, from which it may not fully recover. Profits have skyrocketed and business continues as per usual.

What these anti-union and anti-labour lobbies have essentially advocated for is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in Canada, an increased pressure on the Canadian working-class, the disappearance of the living wage, growing unemployment particularly among youth and the deregulation of the Canadian job market. All of these factors continue to upload a neoliberal vision: global division of labor between the skills-based rich in countries from the north and a manual labour-rich south, what can also be described as the triangular trade of the 21st century.

Throughout the past two decades, many have spoken of the highly skilled professionals and academics that are immigrating from developing countries toward the fully industrialized north. It is a brain drain.

migrant workers federation

On the other hand, there is the continual delocalization of many industrial jobs from northern markets towards southern markets, where wages are lower and the tax environment friendlier. In essence, outsourcing for multinational and corporate interest.

Both brain drain and outsourcing have serious consequences on the global economy. The brain drain deprives developing countries of necessary skill sets to tackle the challenges of post-colonization and outsourcing ravages communities throughout the Western world and still does today.

The form of globalization in which we must live today poses no solution for the inequity that weighs in favor of the rich and the most powerful of this world. Well, inequity is the fuel that allows globalization to continue unheeded on its destructive path.

In the past decade we have seen the surge of a new phenomenon called insourcing through the rapid growth of the FTWP. Insourcing, as opposed to outsourcing, is the use of  ‘cheap’ labor when there is lack of manpower to get this or that project completed.

There are many historical examples of insourcing in Canadian history, one being the exploitation of Chinese workers to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Chinese families at the time received no compensation for members of the family that were killed, nor were they always notified of the death itself. Although Chinese workers were promised enough money to send home to their families in China, this dream sadly rarely came to fruition.

With a history like this housed in Canadian public memory, one would think that Canada would learn from these mistakes and make sure they never happen again. Yet, that very same treatment is reserved for foreign temporary workers throughout the country today. At the end of their contract, temporary workers do not even reserve the right to reside on Canadian soil.

In recent years cases of abuse and discrimination have come to light, all of which are proof of violation of labour laws. This has put pressure on the Conservative government to create stricter guidelines for the program. The government now obliges employers to pay foreign temporary workers Canadian minimum wage and pay a user fee.

Fundamentally, FTWP is a program that is based on discrimination and will only breed more discrimination. The FTWP creates a double standard, one for Canadian residents and citizens and one for the Other, creating a second class of workers, that is a reserve force that is inexhaustible in which individuals lose their rights and their dignity.

A capitalist’s dream come true, the FTWP allows those in power to strip individuals and nations of not only their product, but their capacity for trade. To the Canadian government, these workers are disposable.

Any worker that comes to Canada and works for the betterment of our collectivity deserves to be treated in the same regard as any other worker on Canadian soil. There should be no class distinction made among workers; we are one.

To protect the hard-won battles of organized labour throughout the years, we must also struggle with foreign temporary workers. FTWP should not be a centerpiece of Canadian immigration policy, but a program that helps foreign workers who have no intention of staying while they are here and helps those who do wish to remain in Canada make the transition.

“Good enough to work here, good enough to stay” a Canada that respects itself, that upholds the principals and values enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would honour such an ideal.

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *