Special to the Free Press
New trade agreements further contribute to the trend toward dissolving national boundaries and removing protections for Canada’s labour force. Corporations show no loyalty to the safe, stable country that helped them build up their holdings to the point that they could compete internationally.
Despite some changes last year, negative impacts from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program continue. This is at a time of a 13-per-cent youth unemployment rate and evidence of downsizing and displacing employees in later middle age [the supposedly over-privileged Boomers denounced in metropolitan dailies and mainstream newsmagazines]. Reflecting this trend is a Manulife ad on the MSN Canada website that shows a middle-aged man standing by his desk in late afternoon and says, “Are you ready if your boss asks you to retire early?”
Computer firms, banks and telecommunications companies are among the worst offenders, but many other industries are involved. In Fort McMurray, Alta., airport workers have been protesting plans to replace 24 CUPE custodial workers with a contracting company having a history of using temporary foreign workers, according to an article by Vincent McDermott in the April 16 Fort McMurray Today.
Earlier this month the Fort McMurray Airport Authority announced it would lay off the employees to reduce operational costs. The contractor replacing the workers has been criticized for using temporary foreign workers and paying wages the Alberta labour movement says are too low for Fort McMurray, McDermott writes in the article. If the layoffs are approved, the last day of work will be May 31.
Alberta CUPE leader Marle Roberts said the union was told the private contractor will not be hiring any new temporary foreign workers, but that it already has eight working in the airport’s north terminal, according to an article the same week in the Edmonton Journal. Laid-off workers can reapply for their jobs under the private contractor, but would have to accept its lower wages, Scott Clements, Fort McMurray Airport Authority CEO, said in the Journal article.
This is the whole concern. Programs that have the effect of flooding the labour market lead to lower wages and reduce job security. Meanwhile mainstream media continue to publish tendentious articles about labour shortages and so-called skills mismatches under which Canadian university graduates are said to have acquired skills and specialties not meeting the requirements of industry.
Similar nonsense has been occurring in the United States. In 1990 Congress passed the H-IB visa program, permitting American businesses to import college-educated foreign workers for high-tech and knowledge-economy jobs, writes Hedrick Smith, who shared a Pulitzer Prize for the Pentagon Papers series in the early 1970s. By the early 2000s, close to a million Americans had been replaced by foreigners, even though studies by Rand, the California research giant, and others asserted there was no shortage of Americans to fill such jobs, according to Smith in his book, Who Stole the American Dream?
IT corporations like Intel, Oracle, Cisco and IBC had pushed for the H-IB legislation, but AIG, the insurance giant, also benefited from it, he notes. American employees about to be laid off were told to train their lower-wage replacements from overseas, and they found the foreign workers had no special expertise justifying a special visa, only a willingness to work for less.
University of California political economist Robert Reich, secretary of labour under former U.S. president Bill Clinton, said the H-IB visa program “has become a major means of circumventing the costs of paying skilled American workers or the costs of training them,” Smith notes.
In Regina, a fast-food restaurant that reportedly used temporary foreign workers recently raised wages for full-time workers by $1 per hour, Neil Scott wrote in an editorial in The Leader Post April 10. The pay raise, amounting to almost 10 per cent, was provided just as changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program were being fully felt and some of the foreign workers had to return home.
“My advice to restaurants, hospitality and service industry businesses in Saskatchewan is to stop your whining,” Scott advised. “If you’re having trouble finding workers, pay higher wages.”
This applies to any industry.