The Harper government has recently announced changes to its Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) after being criticized by the opposition parties for allowing foreign workers to work jobs Canadians could technically have.
Since the conservative government came to power, they have made it easy for companies to hire foreign workers, for jobs ranging from agriculture to IT. Last year, the government said companies could pay these workers 5 to 15 per cent less than the going rate.
The Liberals and NDP say these moves have taken away jobs from Canadians. This is true in some cases (like the one of the RBC Royal Bank), but in many cases, foreign workers are taking jobs Canadians are unwilling to work due to the low pay and long hours. At any rate, it is clear the changes to the TFWP hurt both international and Canadian workers by putting downward pressure on wages.
However, the narrative of the opposition parties is that foreign workers are taking away Canadian jobs, which subtly suggests that foreign workers are the problem. This is not true —capitalism is the problem.
The reality is that temporary foreign workers are some of the most exploited labourers around the globe. They are denied entry into Canada as full immigrants, and must go back to their country after a maximum of four years. They have to be away from their family to work a menial job for little money because they can’t find work in their home countries and they can’t immigrate legally with their families. Meanwhile, because their employer can fire them and force them to leave Canada at any time, they are subject to massive abuse and exploitation from employers.
Due to the backlash, the Harper government is now making it more difficult for companies to hire workers under the TFWP. For example, they need to do more work to hire Canadians first and they are not allowed to pay temporary foreign workers less than Canadian workers doing the same job. These changes may reduce the amount of temporary foreign workers —which has doubled to 338,000 since the Harper government took office— but it won’t make life any easier for the foreign workers who do come here.
In the world capitalist system, corporations will always use their power to ensure that they have access to a cheap pool of labourers. On the global level, corporations influence rotten capitalist governments to militarily and financially support leaders of poor countries that keep wages low. These same major capitalist governments and corporations also help overthrow or undermine leaders who try to give workers more rights, people like Allende in Chile, Aristide in Haiti and Chavez in Venezuela. On the domestic level, these bourgeois forces support programs that bring in workers at low wages, and ensure they have access to few services and few rights so that they have no choice but to accept their lot.
For these reasons, and many others, there can be no justice or fairness for workers under the world capitalist system. And as workers, we all must fight at home in Canada and across international borders to overthrow this system. This means fighting against attempts to divide and rule us —between “low-skilled” and “skilled,” and between Canadian and “foreign.”