Canadian Manufacturing

Limits to wages, headcount and term hit revamped foreign worker program

The government will also post the number of temporary foreign workers approved every quarter, along with the names of companies that hire them

OTTAWA—Accommodation, food service and retail sector employers located in regions with high unemployment won’t be allowed to apply for temporary foreign workers in the lowest wage and skill groups, according to the latest changes to Ottawa’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

That’s just one of the changes to the controversial program announced June 20 by the Conservative government.

A cap is also being placed on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers an employer can hire at each worksite. The restriction is 30 per cent of a worksite’s employees starting immediately, dropping to 10 per cent by July 2016.

Employers who are currently under the cap will not be allowed to hire more temporary foreign workers in order to reach the limit.

The cap will not apply to employers with fewer than 10 workers or to short-term, non-renewable positions.

Employers will also be required to re-apply every year for approval to hire low-wage temporary foreign workers, instead of every two years. The fee to apply for approval, called a labour market impact assessment, is being increased to $1,000 from $275.

The government also says it will post the number of temporary foreign workers approved every quarter, along with the names of companies that get the green light to hire them.

Employers who hire temporary foreign workers must promise not to lay off any Canadian workers or cut their hours, and they must tell the government how many Canadians applied and were interviewed for jobs, along with why they were not hired.

The program will now be based on provincial wage levels instead of the government’s national occupational classifications. Low wages are defined as anything below the provincial median; high wages are anything above it.

The amount of time a low-wage temporary foreign worker can work in Canada is being reduced to a cumulative total of two years from four years.

The government is also lifting its freeze on hiring temporary foreign workers in the food-services sector.

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