Workers of Canada unite: The problem with the Foreign Temporary Worker Program isn’t foreign temporary workers

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In the past few weeks the already very publicized loophole of the Foreign Temporary Worker Program (aka FTWP), which was already a hot issue in the past few months, has taken center-stage in Canadian political life. What bothers most is that recently, mainstream media has been paying more attention and putting emphasis on only one aspect of the FTWP: the fact that such a program promotes the employment of foreign workers at the supposed detriment of Canadian workers.

The FTWP is flawed in many ways and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. This being said, it isn’t because of the foreign temporary workers themselves, it’s because of the distinction such a program makes between Canadian workers and their foreign counterparts. But who would expect anything else from a method that derives directly from an agenda of profit over people that wants to pit “Canadian” workers against “foreign” workers in an incessant race to the bottom, a strategy to push down everyone’s wages without any discrimination.

The mainstream media, in many of its reports, still views the FTWP as a solution brought by the Canadian government to regulate the flow of foreign nationals that want to work in Canada for a short period of time. But that’s the hoax, the mirage that has been put forward by the Conservative government.

It’s most certainly very far from the true premise behind the program. Once you understand the FTWP’s underlying purpose, you understand that in the past weeks, Canadian public opinion has fallen into the rhetorical trap laid by the Conservative agenda.

Laid off workers tfwp
Falling for the spin (image: aec-cea.ca)

The FTWP should be the Conservatives’ Achilles’ heel and yet in many ways, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Why? Because the criticism that has been put forward against the loophole prefers to focus on the dichotomy between foreigners and Canadians instead of the fact that workers, no matter what their nationality is, are being exploited, and thus that the struggle of foreign temporary worker is our own.

It’s a very clever, elaborate trap and one that’s almost invisible. It creates labour conditions that only exist for “foreigners” (people that aren’t Canadian) thus the debate will revolve around foreigners taking jobs from Canadians, deflecting attention from the issue of the hideous working conditions that are inflicted upon them, or the fact that multinationals benefit in many ways from foreign labour because it’s cheaper, not only in terms of wages, but also in social expenses.

The Conservatives want us to see things in such a manner because the crude reality is that the FTWP is just another one of their handouts to corporate Canada, and that would be much more damaging to them.

The FTWP could the catalyst for a renewed labor-union movement because it breeds in itself so many of the contradictions inherent in the Conservative agenda. The conditions that foreign temporary workers are living in today are a mirror of what might be to come in the near future for Canadian workers of all stripes and walks of life. In many ways the fight of the foreign temporary workers and the fight of Canadian workers goes hand in hand.

On this 1st of May, a day during which we remember the labor struggles of foregone times, we must renew the struggle for better working conditions, a living wage and full employment. The only way to do that is to build a movement that encompasses all labour on Canadian soil.

This is a struggle that isn’t confined to any specific nationality. All workers of Canada, be they foreign or Canadian citizens, must unite. Today, let us go into the streets and commit to create a society in which workers’ rights are inalienable no matter what your status might be. Let us commit to creating a society in which all workers have equal status and in which workers are always above profit.

A luta continua,

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