Saskatchewan’s foreign workers program fails to impress labour

Posted by admin on Sep 4th, 2008

RICHARD GILBERT. Daily Commercial News

Some labour unions in Saskatchewan are skeptical about a joint initiative between the federal and provincial governments to make improvements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP), the provincial arm of the federal program, allows the provincial government to select skilled workers and nominate applicants for landed immigrant status.

The Saskatchewan government announced on Aug. 12 that the new initiative will improve and expand upon the federal TFW program, by enabling workers in the hospitality sector to apply for landed immigrant status.

It also aims to protect TFWs by providing them with information on labour standards, occupational health and safety, and work-related rights and responsibilities.

“Our work with the Government of Saskatchewan will ensure that foreign workers continue to enjoy the same rights and protections as Canadian workers,” said Monte Solberg, minister of Human Resources and Social Development.

“I am pleased that both governments are developing new and improved publications in several different languages, some of which are already available at local Service Canada Centres and online. We are also working together on outreach activities to ensure that not only workers know their rights, but also that employers know their responsibilities when hiring a foreign worker in Saskatchewan and across Canada.”

The improvements to the TFW program include strengthening protections for workers and improving outreach and communications with employers and workers.

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour questions how serious the federal and provincial governments are about protecting the rights of TFWs.

“We do have a concern with the increased use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, without ensuring the legislative framework, that covers workers rights, is available to temporary foreign workers,” said Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.

“We have no indication that the provincial government is serious about this at all. We are skeptical about the government in relation to workers rights.”

According to Hubich, the government should not be engaging people on a temporary basis to provide the necessary workforce to sustain economic growth.

“The Federation of Labour and our affiliates are all supportive of a proactive immigration policy, which involves full rights of citizenship,” he said.

“We are supportive of a respectful and aggressive immigration policy that encourages citizens from outside countries to come to Saskatchewan to live, work and raise a family.”

In sharp contrast, the provincial government argued that the changes to the TFW program are an important part of their economic development strategy.

“Saskatchewan has one of the nation’s fastest growing economies right now,” said Rob Norris, provincial minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour.

“The changes we are announcing today will help to address skills shortages in the hospitality sector and to ensure the protection of temporary foreign workers, who play such a vital role in this and other industries. We’re pleased to work with the federal government and our industry partners on meeting Saskatchewan’s growing labour market needs.”

Hubich argued that the provincial government needs to pursue other development strategies based on the unique demographics in the province.

“We have a large and growing aboriginal population in the province, which is not fully engaged in the workforce,” he said.

“Efforts need to be doubled and re-doubled to ensure this segment of the population fully participates in the economy. We might be better served to invest these dollars to make sure Saskatchewan citizens are involved in the workforce.”

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