(Apr. 30/13) The federal government has announced reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program that aim to ensure Canadians get the first chance to apply for available jobs. Click here to read the government’s announcement.

Our response
CRFA and our members fully support “Hiring Canadians First.” Hiring a temporary foreign worker is already an expensive, cumbersome process in terms of employer time, money and administrative resources, and government’s announcement will only make it more so. However, the TFW program is critically important to many restaurant operators and they will work within the new program parameters.

Reform #1: Having a plan
Employers using the TFW program will need to have a plan to replace their temporary foreign workers with Canadians. Employers must demonstrate their plan to recruit, train and hire Canadians first before they are granted a permit to hire foreign workers. If they have to hire foreign workers, they then need a plan that shows how they will eventually hire Canadians for these positions.

The TFW program has been a lifeline to a small percentage of restaurant employers who haven’t been able to hire workers in tight labour markets. It won’t be difficult for these employers to demonstrate their efforts to recruit Canadians. Each member using the TFW program can document the steps taken to locate Canadians for available jobs – including groups traditionally underrepresented in the Canadian labour force.

Potential issues
If no underrepresented workers are willing to be trained or to work due to demographics or geography, developing a transition plan could be problematic. In areas of low unemployment, where most TFWs are currently employed, government has to work with our industry to encourage unemployed Canadians in other parts of the country to migrate to regions with job opportunities.

It’s important to note a key demographic of our industry’s workforce is employees aged 15 to 24. In some chain restaurants, up to 75 per cent of staff are from this demographic. This age group has already reached its demographic peak, and will decline by 300,000 before increasing again in the early 2020s. Government must keep this fact in mind when considering employers’ plan to transition to a Canadian workforce over time.

Reform #2: Removal of compensation policy
CRFA is not surprised the five to 15 per cent compensation policy has been removed due to the continuing misconceptions on its use. CRFA and our members’ efforts to clarify that employers cannot hire foreign workers for less than Canadians fell on deaf ears. Changes were inevitable to stop perpetuating these myths.

Reform #3: Increased fees
Restaurant employers are prepared to help bear the cost of the program, particularly if the application and approvals process can be sped up. However, we need more clarification on the fees and process.

Click here to read more about other reforms announced.

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