Monday, April 8, 2013

On RBC and Temporary Foreign Workers

In the news this weekend was a story about RBC hiring a firm to provide IT workers. It doesn't sound like the kind of breaking news that would have the Bank at the centre of a controversy; till you get the details. The temporary foreign workers are here to be trained by the existing crew; who's jobs they will then assume, till the bulk of the work is finally transitioned over seas.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program-TFWP was established to provide assistance to businesses facing labour shortages, due to skills or bodies. It seems reasonable to allow businesses to bring in workers if the lack-there-of would result in the shutting of their doors. Some have voiced concern over abuses that may arise dues to this program and older ones dealing with care givers and the agricultural sectors.

RBC has found there way into this morass. What the Bank is doing is outsourcing a piece of their business; nothing unusual about that. The problem is that you aren't allowed to bring in foreign workers to displace Canadian ones. Had RBC just outsourced the department I can't imagine it would have raised an eyebrow. The idea of training the workers imported to take your job is something all together different and subsequently very news worthy.

RBC troubles are the latest incidence of companies testing the boundaries of the TFWP. In BC a mining company applied for and was given the right to bring in Coal miners from China. They argued and had supporting evidence that they couldn't find workers or skills in Canada to construct and operate their mine. This assertion has been opposed by Unions concerned with the importation of Labour. Additional documents suggest that the the Chinese workers maybe be here for up to 14 years. Nothing temporary about that.  There does appear to be labour shortages in BC but from the looks of it there is no plan to remedy that situation. It is appears easier to to hire foreign workers than to recruit and/or train Canadian ones.

One of the advantages is in wages; the Federal government has granted businesses the right to pay 15% less to TFW. Other abuses unintended but real are unsafe working conditions  wages withheld or refused, threats of deportation. The kind of things you might expect where vulnerable people are involved.

 No business wants to pay more than they have too. TFWP is like outsourcing only in reverse. Gone are the days when if you can't find a skilled worker you train one yourself; If you can't find someone to do the job you increase the pay till you do.

And it is all about cost. When a business talks of competitiveness they no longer mean innovation, quality or customer service; they mean cost, and only cost. Where once the desire to reduce costs led to the transfer of manufacturing and other jobs to Low Wage regions; temporary worker programs have led to the importation of low wage workers for that employment that couldn't easily be exported. It is argued that TFWP has an effect of lowering working standards in Canada and I think it is a point that has weight.

 Non Western economies didn't lose their manufacturing to a Developing world that did it better, they lost out to Countries that could do it cheaper. Now for those we have arranged to recreate Low Wage enclaves in Canada.





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