Restaurants Canada calls for lift of TFWP ban

CHARLOTTETOWN—Restaurants Canada’s board of directors is calling for an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to address what they are calling a labour crisis in some regions of the country.

CHARLOTTETOWN—Restaurants
Canada’s board of directors is calling for an emergency meeting with
Prime Minister Stephen Harper to address what they are calling a labour
crisis in some regions of the country.

In April, employment minister Jason Kenney placed a moratorium on
the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) for the foodservice
industry after complaints of the program being misused.

“There couldn’t be a worse time for this ban,” Garth Whyte, president and chief executive officer of Restaurants Canada, told CLN
in late May. “We strongly agree with penalties for people abusing the
system, but it’s hurt some members that are in dire need right now.”

Restaurants Canada held a press conference on May 27 in
Charlottetown where the 30-person board of directors gathered for its
annual spring meeting.

The group called on the federal government to end the moratorium
on the TFWP, strengthen rules of the program to ensure it is not abused
and allow operators to hire foreign workers for positions at all skill
levels after exhausting all other options to hire Canadian workers. The
group also launched a petition that has gathered more than 2,700
signatures.

“This is about protecting Canadian jobs,” Brenda O’Reilly, owner
of Yellow Belly Brewery and Public House in St. John’s said in a
statement. 

“I employ 120 people, including five foreign workers, I’d have to
cut back on hours, putting Newfoundlanders out of work. I’ve also
turned down an opportunity to open a new restaurant, because I know I
won’t be able to staff it,” O’Reilly said. 

Gerard Curran, proprietor of James Joyce Irish Pub in Calgary
said he had to cut back kitchen hours and is operating at a 30 per cent
labour shortage.

“The situation is taking a toll on all my employees, including
one who is in the hospital right now due to stress created by an
increased workload and a lot of uncertainty,” Curran said.

The CBC reports the federal government will make the
changes to the TWFP to raise the cost of using the program and promote
Canadians being hired first.

“Our government has been clear: Canadians must have the first
chance at available jobs,” Kenney said in a statement on April 24. “We
have repeatedly warned employers that the Temporary Foreign Worker
Program must only be used as a last and limited resort when Canadians
are not available.”

The moratorium put a stop to any new or pending labour market
opinion (LMO) applications related to the foodservice sector. However,
president and chief executive officer of Alberta Hotel and Lodging
Association Dave Kaiser told PRN Service Canada has clarified hotels operating their own foodservice do not fall under the moratorium.

Prior to the moratorium, McDonald’s Canada voluntarily suspended
its use of the TFWP, following reports the program was being misused at
some of its franchised locations.

“We have committed to undertake an independent third party audit
of all our corporate and franchised restaurants that employ temporary
foreign workers,” the company said in an April release.

Of the 1,400 restaurants in Canada, McDonald’s said only 268
restaurants employ temporary foreign workers, which make up four per
cent of the company’s Canadian workforce.

On May 28, McDonald’s Canada announced it has hired Deloitte to conduct a third-party review of the company’s use of the TFWP.

“If any discrepancies are uncovered through the audit process, we
will act swiftly and effectively to continue to make things right,” Len
Jillard, chief people officer of McDonald’s Canada, said in a release.

In a statement Tim Hortons called the TFWP vital.

“[We] believe suspending access to responsible users of the
program is not an answer to critical labour shortages faced in some
markets,” the company stated.

The federal moratorium came on the same day the C.D. Howe
Institute published a report on the TFWP stating changes made to the
program between 2002 and 2012 have made it easier to hire foreign
workers which has accelerated the rise in unemployment in Alberta and
British Columbia.

Restaurants Canada paid for full-page newspaper ads in areas
where the TFWP is frequently used. The ads describe severe labour
shortages and how restaurants only turn to the program as a last
resort. 

According to the National Post, 338,000 temporary foreign workers were employed in Canada as of December 2013.