Editorial: Righting the wrongs for temporary foreign workers

A classic example of bad apples spoiling the whole bunch

Abuse of the federal government’s temporary foreign worker program has resulted in its nationwide suspension  for the food service industry, but what does this mean for the exemplary employer who has been abiding by the rules?

In the case of Strand’s Old House Restaurant owner Tony Wood right here in Invermere, it means loss of a skilled chef and further delays in full-time service right before the May long weekend, reputedly the kick off for the valley’s busy season.

A classic example of bad apples spoiling the whole bunch — although, in this scenario, it’s actually several big, high profile apples ruining it for the rest — McDonald’s being the notable culprit.

The flip side is that the opening up of this can of worms is also shedding light on the smaller, unscrupulous business owners who have, until now, gone unnoticed in their misuse of a program that is intended to be a temporary quick-fix to difficult staffing shortages, not a permanent solution to displacing Canadian workers who understandbly have higher expectations when it comes to wages and working conditions.

Suspending the program until it’s reinstated with more stringent rules and better regulations will right many of the wrongs against temporary foreign workers who have been at the mercy of abusive employers who have used the threat of expulsion as a way to ensure a compliant, non-questioning workforce.

But to isolate the food service industry only, despite reports of abuse across other sectors,  betrays the decision as one pandering to the media inquiry into the various corporate scandals rather than the rights of temporary foreign workers within the program.  Under the new suspension, those who feel they are being exploited are tied to their employers and can’t change jobs; those who have paid fees to move to Canada might lose their money and face uncertain futures. Meanwhile, the business owners who were waiting for them are once again faced with staff shortages — and nobody wins.