Restaurant association calls for meeting with prime minister

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Garth Whyte, president Restaurants Canada, is joined by Liam Dolan, chair, and other industry leaders from across Canada, during a press conference requesting an emergency meeting with Prince Minister Stephen Harper addressing a labour shortage in the food service industry.

The largest restaurant association in the country is calling for an immediate end to the moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the food service industry and wants an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Restaurants Canada says the labour shortage in the industry has reached a crisis level in some regions of the country as a result of the moratorium.

“It’s having a negative impact not only on our business owners, but on their employees as well,” said Garth Whyte, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada.

“We need the government to act now.”

The association, which represents over 30,000 members across the country, is holding meetings in Prince Edward Island this week.

Charlottetown restaurant owner and Restaurants Canada chair Liam Dolan said Tuesday board members from across the country identified the labour shortage crisis as the single most important issue affecting their businesses.

He said he is seeing an especially large shortage of cooks. 

“I’ve been in business for 31 years, and this is the worst I’ve seen a shortage of cooks in this province,” Dolan said.

“I’m open six days a week in the winter and seven days a week in the summer. And I’m seriously considering not opening on Sundays.”

This will affect everyone who works in his restaurant, including students he said.

The moratorium was imposed on the food and services sector about a month ago after national media stories emerged about employers in several provinces accused of hiring foreign workers over Canadians.

Complaints emerged that temporary foreign workers were being given more hours and more shifts for less pay than their Canadian counterparts.

Whyte said the federal government is penalizing the entire food service industry in Canada for abuses by a minority of restaurant owners.

“We want to be part of the solution,” he said.

“We think there could be tougher rules on those that abuse (the program). We are strongly against misusing this program."

Restaurants Canada has launched an online petition called ‘Protecting Canadian Jobs’ that has already gathered close to 3,000 signatures from business owners and employees.

It is calling for an emergency meeting with Harper to discuss the labour shortage crisis in the industry.

“We’re serious, this is important,” Whyte said.

“We need to meet with the prime minister and they need to take this ban off immediately.”

Organizations: Restaurants Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Foulis
    May 28, 2014 - 20:04

    The whole canadian corporatocracy is driven by Greed just Greed. I tried NOT to buy anything canadian or from canadian companies, buy on e-bay from overseas Even if it costs me a bit more, I was born to hate Greedy people and I've seen it all in this country from the Prime minister to the short stop owner, Disgusting!!!!!!

  • Wake Up
    May 28, 2014 - 18:07

    The Plantation Owners said the same thing when Lincoin abolished slavery.

  • jon
    May 28, 2014 - 14:51

    there's no shortage of cooks Liam Dolan. Low pay, combined with increased cost's of life make it impossible for someone to survive.. it's funny that the person that decide's that $10.00 an hour is a fair wage makes $10.000.00 an hour. Thanks for using my tax money to drive down my wages and take my Job. Claddagh Oyster House, the Olde Dublin Pub and Peake’s Quay, never will i ever....

  • Hire Canadian
    May 28, 2014 - 12:32

    I suspect that the real reason this is the worst Liam Dolan has seen a shortage of cooks is that Canadian businesses have not trained any Canadian cooks since they discovered the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. It is an industry created shortage because they have not trained Canadian cooks in the first place. They are reaping what they have sown. Restaurant owners complain that it takes twelve to eighteen months to land a TFW at their workplace, yet after less than a month the moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the food service industry has turned the labour shortage into a crisis? Oh please. I think someone is telling a little fib here. It's lucky that tourist season coincides with students looking for summer employment. What a great opportunity the Canadian Govt have given the business community to attract those same students looking for work. If the restaurant closes on Sunday that may be a good thing as it gives everyone a much needed day off with their families to rejuvenate. Considering their online petition has only received 3000 names from across Canada, I think this paid lobby group should be looking elsewhere for sympathy. Very little of what they say has any credibility.

  • Ratzshite Crustyguy
    May 28, 2014 - 12:13

    I will never spend my money in a restaurant I know has foreign workers end of story!! The restaurant association should get of there lazy arse and go to career development day at high schools across Canada and start telling kids that many jobs await them in the food industry. If restaurant association wants foreign workers they should move there restaurants to these foreign countries and do business there, no wait those countries don't have many people with the income to dine at restaurants because there economies 'suck it'.

  • Jovis
    May 28, 2014 - 11:46

    Waa waaaaa....but we don't want to pay Canadians a half decent living wage. We want cheap indentured foreigners to take advantage of. Waaa waaaaaa. Help us out here Stevie, we need more profits.

  • Jim Osborne
    May 28, 2014 - 11:14

    There would be no shortage of workers if the restaurant owners offered a decent wage. Don't tell us about thin margins. We don't buy it. All of them just need to raise their prices together -- hey, the gasoline industry has no difficulty doing so with impunity while regulators look the other way.

    • King Hughes
      May 28, 2014 - 15:17

      End the Temporary Foreign Workers program now. Restauranteurs can suck it up for the labour they need. The government can assist by eliminating minimum wage requirements and reducing UI benefits. The lazy people have to get off their duffs and take up the slack.

  • Tau Lin
    May 28, 2014 - 10:58

    I am a foreign worker, but even still, I can completely understand the ban. I would often work more than double our local summer student's hours despite the fact we both did the same job. He was equally qualified, but I know he made more than I did. Now I'm not complaining about the hours, but in all fairness he needed the money more than I did. (Saving for University)

  • kaiserwunderbar
    May 28, 2014 - 10:41

    Totally agree , if restos cannot find labour locally then that's called supply and demand and if you cannot survive without improrting slaves then maybe that says something about the larger Canadian economy

  • NerillDP
    May 28, 2014 - 10:34

    Slave labour is not the answer. Pay a decent wage with decent working conditions and you will have more resumes from local people than you could imagine.

  • V Wright
    May 28, 2014 - 10:33

    There maybe a lot of Canadians looking for work but the problem is a lot of people feel it is beneath them to work for mim. wage or at Tim Horton's or McDonalds. If you really want to work swallow your pride and work where you can get a job. If you have a family to support you will work anywhere you will teach your children a valuable lesson.

  • SomeSense
    May 28, 2014 - 07:47

    They should definitely not lift the ban. If restaurants can't survive without these foreign workers then they should either fail or change their business practices so they can compete. Maybe raise your prices and also the wages you pay, maybe pay more without raising prices, I know it would be crazy to not make as much profit as possible. Maybe you should not open some days of the week. The bottom line is there are lots of Canadians looking for work and if your positions were decent they would be filled. No business should get a break hiring these foreign workers for non skilled positions and no position other than a real chef in a restaurant is a skilled one, certainly none at any fast food outlet or any server at a more upscale location.