Temporary Foreign Worker Program Review – Attention Ministers Mihychuk and McCallum – Part 2

Let me share with you why Express Entry is the solution!

….So with high rates of non-compliance within the low skill ranks of the TFWP, coupled with the equally acknowledged need for foreign labour in various industries, I am going to share with you exactly why I feel Express Entry is the solution to all that ails the TFWP.

The government will no longer need to perpetuate the fiction that the TFWP is actually being enforced?

The last time I checked, there has not been a new employer added to the government’s naughty list since November of 2014. Without trying to be too critical, the government’s enforcement mechanism has been like a barking dog with no bite.

After a while, it doesn’t matter how loud the dog barks, the burglar knows the dog isn’t going to bite, so they just keep on stuffing your jewelry into their pillow case

dog-eat-dog-2-2-1245209 2

Since 2011, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) (collectively referred to as the “government”) keep ratcheting up the consequences of non-compliance with employers …. but in the end, they rarely punish malfeasance.

Bad employers (and I am going to keep referring to them as this because that is exactly what they are) understand that they can do pretty much whatever they want with their vulnerable foreign workers. Although some initial fear may be struck with each incrementally loud enforcement bark, any apprehension quickly disappears with the realization that no bite is ever coming.

The Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP) regime, that became law on December 1, 2015, could be helpful in deterrence. However, we have heard virtually nothing regarding enforcement since this latest round of barking commenced. In fact, there has been very little of anything describing how the AMPs will even be administered.

It amazes me that the government can enact arguably punitive legislation against employers without providing the basis upon which the penalties will be applied…but this is also a topic for another blog or maybe even another Podcast.

If there has been any enforcement, [note the inflection in the word “has”] it has come at the hands of the fearsome Integrity Service Branch Officer who goes to all possible lengths to identify the terrible corporate villain who dares to give their beloved foreign worker CEO a 3% annual raise after he had the audacity of earning the company and all its Canadian employees $50 million in the previous year….non-compliance in all its horror!

What a colossal waste of time and governmental resources.

Officers need to conduct site visits

If each of these officers donned their coat, hopped in their bat mobile and actually popped in on the premises of the extensive list of “bad employers,” most assuredly building through ESDC’s online fraud reporting tool, a disincentive would actually be created.

If anyone actually knows how many tips have been generated to date, I would love to know. Clearly they are not being investigated as robustly as previous Minister Jason Kenney assured us all when the TFWP was overhauled/gutted in 2014.

I can’t help but quote from the government’s very own “Bark Sheet” released simultaneously with the announcement that “once and for all” the TFWP was being overhauled and “bad employers” ….well….their days were numbered:

Stronger Enforcement and Tougher Penalties

Increasing the Number and Scope of Inspections

Given concerns over abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the Government is making a significant investment in its TFWP inspection regime.

Despite the fact that the Low Skill TFW Pilot Project was created in 2002, no inspections were done at that time. In recent years, the Government began conducting inspections, and there is now a dedicated team of inspectors for the TFWP at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) Nevertheless, an additional investment into the TFWP inspection regime is required to ensure stronger enforcement.

Effective immediately, the Government is massively increasing the number of inspections so that one in four employers using temporary foreign workers will be inspected each year These inspections will be as a result of tips, employers being deemed high-risk and random audits.

And we must not forget how seriously those critical “tips” were to be taken by that newly hired team of dedicated inspectors. Pulling once again from the “Bark Sheet”:

Increased Detection of Abuse

The Government launched a Confidential Tip Line in April 2014 for Canadians to report abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). More than 1,000 tips had been received to date.

In addition to the tip line, a new Complaints Web page has been launched to allow the public to submit tips easily and securely online.

The Government will continue to follow up on each and every complaint to make sure that employers who are breaking the rules are caught and face the consequences.
We encourage all Canadians who have concerns or information to call our anonymous and confidential tip line. Any allegation of abuse will be investigated.

To report abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, contact:

Service Canada Confidential Tip Line
1-866-602-9448 or
visit www.esdc.gc.ca/tfwp

I think you get the picture. Lot’s more barking and very little bite.

What the program needed more than anything was actual investigation, not overhauling.

Yes. Please do strengthen the enforcement regulations if they were somehow deficient.  However, after doing so, you have to actually follow through. Especially when you have so clearly set it out in writing.

If the regulations call for site visits, then actually visit the job sites and conduct real investigations. If the regulations call for AMPs, then fine employers that abuse the program!

Since the summer of 2014, the TFWP has been pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars (likely well into the millions [I couldn’t find the actual figures]. With an application fee of $1,000 per foreign worker named in an LMIA application, and high rates of refusal, it is easy to see how the TFWP should have plenty of resources available to actually honour the commitments made in the “Bark Sheet.”

Yes…. I know that the Integrity Services Branch has been conducting lot’s of “investigations” since the program was overhauled. However, these paper based virtual inspections are targeting the wrong kind of non-compliance. What is being turned up is loads of non-compliance for such horrific violations as “fractional” wage increases, slight occupational shifts, and failing to notify Service Canada when a foreign worker stops working and leaves the country.

Seriously… is this the best use of program resources?

If you are inspecting a bad employer, their records are going to show exactly what they want you to see. Remember, they have already required the foreign worker to repay them the cash difference between the LMIA wage and the under-the-table wage they forced the foreign worker to accept.

I’m not so naïve to believe that a site visit will uncover all elements of non-compliance and that a paper based review is ineffective in turning up non-compliance and abuse. However, by actually going to the job site and interviewing both the Canadian and foreign worker employees from time to time, you are sending a message to bad employers that you are serious.

Now of course I know that virtual inspections must have turned up some serious violations; however, if this is the case why have there been no new additions to the governments naughty list in the past two years? 

In fact, the list has actually shrunk versus grown.

Everyone remembers the CBC Go Public piece entitled, “McDonald’s accused of favouring foreign workers” by reporter Kathy Tomlinson, that kick started the whole overhaul to the program back in the Spring of 2014. Glen Bishop, the owner of the McDonald’s franchise highlighted in the article saw his franchise placed on the “black list” and then experienced the pleasure of McDonalds allegedly stripping away all of his franchises as a result of the ensuing investigation.

This is what Ms. Tomlinson reported:

As a result of Go Public’s inquiries, the government has suspended all pending foreign worker permits for the three McDonald’s locations owned by franchisee Glen Bishop and has blacklisted his franchise from using the program, pending the outcome of the probe.

Guess what the outcome of the probe was?

Why don’t you take a second look at the current list of “black listed” employers.

Why?

Because the suspension levied against Glen Bishop’s x-franchise has been lifted and they are no longer on the list any more. In fact, Glen Bishop is now suing McDonalds for damages he allegedly incurred when McDonalds forced him to turn over the franchises when they were in full scale damage control mode following the CBC Go Public article.

I will repeat once again that if any semblance of serious enforcement had occurred at the early stages of the low skill program, there would have been no need for an overhaul.

The public shaming exacted by CBC Go Public on the government would never have occurred. And most importantly, if the overhaul did not take place, the undeserved punishment that was exacted on the good employers (low skill and high skill alike) would have also never occurred.

Stay tuned for Part 3 which will be released tomorrow. The story keeps unfolding….

Please provide your comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the TFWP.

 

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