Exploitation, Extortion & Economy

The temporary foreign workers program in Canada was implemented to address an apparent need for workers in various sectors, due to a shortage of local workers. The program allows companies to hire non-local (out of country) workers, as long as this does not end up taking away jobs from qualified Canadians. Issues surrounding the program started surfacing recently, in 2013, when a many local workers began speaking out regarding the process of being fired and replace by foreign temporary workers. Royal Bank of Canada, McDonalds, Tim Horton’s are just a few of the bigger corporate names that came under fire for this practice [1][2]. To further push the idea that these foreign workers are taking away jobs from Canadian, (some politicians and CEO’s may disagree), is contained within an article by the CBC comparing the amount of Canadians receiving EI (employment insurance) benefits and foreign temporary workers currently working in positions these Canadians state they have expertise in [3]. To unpack this statement, many experienced and ready-to-work Canadians are unemployed and collecting government money while a non-Canadian is working in a position that could (and I feel should) be filled by the latter.

Aside from the issue briefly elaborated on above, the temporary foreign workers have problems of their own with the companies that hire them. In one word: exploitation. These temporary foreign workers are exploited; they are extorted out of money, abused and lied to[4].

In the capitalist society we live in, we have been conditioned to rationalize all of the above-mentioned situations and practices are somewhat acceptable. We are fed lies from the state stressing that Canada is in such a desperate need of extra (foreign) workers when in reality there are numerous able bodied and qualified citizens ready to fill these positions. What capitalist Canada really is in desperate need for, is cheap labor and people who need the work more than the company needs the labor (read: slavery). We, the Canadian citizens, with our knowledge of our rights, guaranteed minimum wage, work safety requirements and security blankets (E.I., welfare) are not the shining stars for companies whose main goal is the production of lot of profit!

Regardless of how blatantly obvious it is to myself; the state and the ruling class (business owners, politicians, et cetera) work very diligently to ensure that they rationalize and condone the harmful behaviors of big businesses, such as the Royal Bank of Canada, on Canadian citizens. Marx’s discussion of a ‘reserve army of labor’ can be explained by looking at unemployed Canadians and employed migrant workers within Canada. If there are more jobs than the people, then the people can pick and choose their positions and perhaps even wages, as the business needs workers to function. However, when there are much more jobs than people, employers are placed in a power position over the employees. Employers may bully workers into situations that benefit no one other than the employer themselves. In a structural interpretation of Marx, one may feel that the use of migrant workers in Canada is a long term plan to instill fear into Canadian citizens, that yes, they can easily be replaced and put out of work by people willing to work for less money. This puts the Canadian citizens into a position where they may consider working for less than the legal minimum simply to receive some money to feed, clothes and shelter themselves. In a more instrumentalist stance, the state, big business and the ruling class are in cahoots, and working directly with each other to cover up foreign migrant worker controversies and push for pro-foreign temporary worker policies to benefit companies by way of increasing profit through cheap(er) labor.

[1] http://business.financialpost.com/2013/04/07/ottawa-concerned-about-report-that-says-rbc-replacing-canadian-staff-with-temporary-foreign-workers/

[2]http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Hortons+McDonald+face+criticism+over+foreign+worker+program/9768838/story.html

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/temporary-foreign-workers-hired-in-areas-with-ei-claimants-1.1368200

[4] http://thetyee.ca/News/2014/01/20/Why-Abuse-is-Hard-to-Stop/

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1 Comment

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One response to “Exploitation, Extortion & Economy

  1. Marx and Engels famously conclude The Communist Manifesto with the following rallying cry:

    “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
    Working Men of All Countries, Unite!”

    Setting aside your general position regarding their call for a proletarian revolution, it is worth thinking about the reasons behind their call for workers “of all countries” to unite, as opposed to a more focused call along the lines of “working men of Canada, unite!”. What are the implications of this call for global solidarity?

    I mention this because you have emphasized that “many experienced and ready-to-work Canadians are unemployed and collecting government money while a non-Canadian is working in a position that could (and I feel should) be filled by the latter.”

    Marx would suggest that the framing of Canadian workers’ rights and interests and the rights and interests of foreign workers as existing in a zero-sum relationship plays an important role in the perpetuation of the existing (in his view, exploitative) system.

    Generally, your post is well-written and effective.