Letter: High School students offer opinion on Temporary Foreign Workers program

We are grade 12 students currently enrolled in Social Studies 30-1 at Morinville Community High School in Morinville, Alberta. Our studies so far have led us to examine basic economic principles and theories. During a class discussion the topic of Temporary Foreign Workers was raised. Most of us have already entered the workforce and some of us have worked alongside TFWs, so we believe that our observations and concerns regarding the TFW program are valid and should be acknowledged.

Every student in the class who has worked with TFWs empathizes with their situation and agrees that the TFWs have a very strong work ethic. There is concern too; that certain employers could take advantage of a labour force that is desperate to earn the money that is being sent “back home” and this makes for workers who will accept whatever conditions to keep their jobs. We strongly believe that TFWs should be paid the same as their Canadian counterparts. If there is such a demand for fast-food workers then why haven’t wages risen to meet the demand? Why, in fact have profits risen with the major franchises while wages have remained stagnant? Do we really need restaurants and stores to be open 24/7? Nowadays graveyard shifts are manned with TFWs because companies “couldn’t hire local”. It’s as if these jobs are created specifically for TFWs.

We students recognize that TFWs fill the “mundane” jobs that some Canadians regard as beneath them. However, as teenagers, we need these entry-level jobs to gain experience. We do not view this as “entitlement”. Priority should be given to Canadian workers because we live here our entire lives and have, and will, continually contribute to society. The money we earn from part-time jobs goes straight back to our local economy. We worry about losing not just these “starter” jobs but also jobs for which we have to earn a university degree or obtain a ticket such as in the trades. Who will speak up for the loss of jobs for middle-class Canadians?

A few of us have already had negative experiences with the TFW program. At [a St. Albert business] one of our classmates had his hours cut back drastically when TFWs were hired. It reached a point when it was no longer feasible to work for a few paltry hours and so he quit. Another student works for a St. Albert restaurant where five TFWs were brought in and he had to train them. Today he is the only Canadian left in the kitchen and one of the TFWs he trained is the kitchen manager while he remains in the same position.

We believe that the TFW program has become a quick fix to hiring cheap labour and that it has not been monitored for abuses. How many Canadians have lost their jobs to TFWs or have had their work outsourced? What will be left for ordinary Canadians? Now we are advised by Stephen Poloz, the Bank of Canada Governor, to make ourselves more marketable when we graduate from post-secondary studies by interning for free. If there is such a labour shortage then why are so many Canadians unable to find work? How much advertising is actually done by companies to hire Canadians before they apply for TFWs or consider shipping the work out of Canada?

Canadian corporations are reaping respectable profits. It is time they invested in the labour force of the country that has enabled them to build their businesses in a stable and democratic environment.

Our studies have now moved on to democratic institutions and citizen participation. We may or may not be anarchists, socialists, conservatives, liberals, or even reactionaries but we are all fiercely loyal to Canada and its democratic institutions. That is why it is so vital that our voices, and the voices of all Canadians, be raised in unison.
Feel free to share your story or comment on the concerns we’ve expressed.

(originally printed in Morinville News)

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