Loss of temporary foreign workers raises concern

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Processors can’t find enough locals to fill crews

SUMMERSIDE – Changes to the Temporary Foreign (TWF) Workers Program are not sitting well with at least one Island fish processor.

Brian Matthews guides a load of lobster pans out of a boat at West Point in this Guardian file photo.

David Dalton, co-owner of South Shore Seafood Ltd. in Rosebank, has his doubts about the program changes.

 “It’s definitely going to affect us for next year,” Dalton said. “I don’t really know what the affects are going to be for this year, if we’re going to have to eliminate part of our staff or not. All I got was new rules were coming into effect immediately…it’s definitely going to affect us next year if our industry is not put into the same category as Agriculture Canada and get some exceptions or, if we can boost up local prospects for recruits for employees.”

The changes announced include the complete exclusion from the program of the hotel, restaurant and retail sectors in regions considered to have “high unemployment” – defined as six per cent or above. This applies to the vast majority of the Atlantic region.

The non-refundable fee to apply for a TFW has also gone from $275 to $1,000 per position, and employers will need to provide more detailed documentation about their recruitment efforts for local workers.

“We have jobs available but we’re getting ready to shut down for a couple of weeks,” Dalton said. “Hopefully, everybody is here when we go back to work. We’ll probably be looking for a few more employees once we start up again.”

For 2014, the federal regulations allow a processor to have 30 per cent of its staff comprised of temporary foreign workers. That drops to 20 per cent next year and to 10 per cent in 2016.

“If something doesn’t change, obviously 30 per cent, this year, 20 per cent in 2015 and 10 per cent in 2016 – to have 100 workers, I’d have to have 90 locals in 2016,” Dalton said. “I probably have 60 local workers here and that’s the most that I’ve had in the last number of years. With wanting to have 100 to 120 people working here, I’m going to have to have 100 locals and only have 15 or 20 from the Philippines. It’s not going to be easy.”

Dalton said a letter to the editor suggested that instead of having one long shift for worker that the time be divided, and two shifts be created.

“At the end of the day, if we can’t find enough people to fill one shift how we going to get enough people to create two shifts?” he asked. “Then all of our employees will be complaining that they’re not getting enough hours so they can draw decent unemployment benefits when they’re not working in the wintertime.”

Dalton said the lobster dictates that it be processed immediately.

“It’s not like a conveyor belt where you can turn it off on Friday and go back and turn it on on Monday,” he said. “You’ve got a live crustacean and if you don’t process it when it’s there it will be dead when you come back Monday morning.”

Egmont MP Gail Shea could not be reached for comment but her office did issue the following statement:

“These changes are aimed at ensuring that Islanders get first crack on available jobs. Running businesses with hundreds of temporary foreign workers while there are unemployed Canadians that are willing to work in the same area is problematic. Islanders and Canadians recognize that. 

“We are taking a reasonable approach by giving businesses a period of transition of three years. We expect during that time that they will work harder to try to hire people locally.  That might involve a mix of raising wages, improved working conditions and more active recruitment measures.

“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program will continue to be there as a last and limited resort, but it is not a business model that our government supports.  

Our government is proud to stand-up for Island families by giving them access to well-paying jobs.”


Organizations: South Shore Seafood, Agriculture Canada

Geographic location: Rosebank, Atlantic, Philippines Iceland

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Recent comments

  • Robert M.
    July 04, 2014 - 14:25

    pay the wage you need to pay to fill the positions...we already have shipped enough fish overseas for processing...let's try not to outsource our jobs via this TFW program, cause that is what you are effectively doing...Foreign Factory freezer trawlers can't do lobster, otherwise the plants would be gone already...

  • don
    July 04, 2014 - 00:09

    David Dalton. this may sound bad but i hope this no tfw closes your plant and you go under. you operated before tfw's but when you can hire tfw and become a slave master and make more profit you like it. to hell with islanders shame on you. his to me is disgusting when you do not and will not pay islanders and REAL CANADIANS to work. so when you go bankrupt remember you can always go to the home country of your tfw slaves and i'm sure the people there will treat you like a king LOL.

  • Hire Canadian
    July 03, 2014 - 15:23

    I am so sick of these employers, their excuses, and their we are unique lines. First they say Canadians don't want to work the long hours so someone suggests running two shifts. The response is immediately but Canadians will complain they are not getting enough hours. Which one is it? Clearly these unique employers are looking for any excuse and stereotype available to avoid hiring Canadians without considering raising wages, improving working conditions and expanding their methods or recruitment. The blinders are on and the only thing they see at the finish line is the brass ring called a temporary foreign worker. Yesterday there were the threats that if we can't have foreign workers we will ship the Canadian jobs off shore. With no, or few Canadians employed by these businesses so what? It's not like it will cost any Canadians their jobs. So Mr. Entrepreneur, this isn't grade four where everyone is made to feel good by being told they are unique. Either start to look for and facilitate solutions or move on. It's not like you have shown any solutions more than what are minimally necessary to the Canadian economy. I hope Mr. Kenney sticks to his guns as he finally seems to be trying to do what is right for Canadians rather than bowing to employers. Here is an interesting article that puts you new reality into perspective. http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/06/26/father-raymond-j-de-souza-calgarys-populists-vs-the-chamber-of-commerce/

  • SomeSense
    July 03, 2014 - 10:57

    Well I have heard from the processors they will have a hard time or will just will not be able to process as much without this cheap labour. But I have also not saw a single job posting for any fish processors on the jobbank site? Are they not even posting the jobs so they can say look without those cheap labourers we had no choice but to process a lot less? If that is anyones plan I say fine you will always be processing a lot less as those workers will not be allowed so you can either hire more locals or loose out on that business.

    July 03, 2014 - 10:43

    On one hand the article states that Government is proud to stand up for Island families to earn a decent wage yet they back the Lobster processors who work their employees like third world countries work their people and pay the very minimum that they can get away with. PEI Lobster once had a very good name everywhere but like the Island Potato which has gone from the top to the bottom because of GREEDY processors the same is and will continue to happen with PEI Lobster. Pay decent wages , have good working conditions and you will still make a sizeable profit. Let greed continue to rule and you will have nothing.

    • don
      July 04, 2014 - 00:13

      it is simple this want to be government has 2 faces and speaks with forked tongue. they are scared to stand up to the owners of the plants as they donate money for the elections. and we all know money talks more then island people.