The Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Marxist context

The Temporary foreign worker program (TFWP) is a federal program created by the Canadian government to allow employers to hire foreign workers who essentially come on a temporary basis. This program has been enforced for around four decades so far but there have been many issues and great controversy arising recently concerning the abuse of this program by many employers within Canada. The TFWP is only meant to hire foreign employees for job openings if a Canadian worker can`t be found to fill it; unfortunately, many employers are taking advantage of this program by bringing in foreign workers (before even looking to hire local workers) on a permanent basis rather than a temporary basis because it saves the employers a lot of money by paying the foreign workers below average wages. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) started investigating issues relating to the TFWP in April 2013. CBC reported that Canadian RBC Information technology workers were being replaced by foreign workers who were being paid a lot less. The ironic thing is that these Canadian employees who had lost their jobs were told to train the foreign workers before being found out that they were being laid off. CBC also stated that some employers were said to be bringing in temporary foreign workers to jobs to replace current workers who were collecting employment insurance benefits. Importantly, in April 2014 it was once again reported by CBC that McDonalds restaurants were employing `unskilled` foreign workers; as a result Jason Kenney, who is the Minister of Employment, announced that the TFWP had been suspended for the food services industry. Another example is of a mining company in B.C. which imported workers from China to displace the local employees. The employers even set one of the job requirements as being able to speak Mandarin Chinese, even though there is no Canadian law that states that a job in Canada requires the ability to speak a language other than English or French. (Temporary Foreign Worker Program)

The Government of Canada has recently decided to make reforms to the TFWP due to the high number of complaints towards this program regarding the abuse of the TFWP by Canadian employers and the displacement of local workers by foreign workers. The main goal of this reform in legislation is to help Canadian citizens get first priority for jobs over foreign workers. Therefore, the law states that it is against the law to hire temporary foreign workers when it could potentially put Canadians out of work as a result. “Economic Action Plan 2014 proposes to invest $11.0 million over two years and $3.5 million per year ongoing to strengthen the Labour Market Opinion process to ensure Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs” (Economic Action Plan 2014). In order to limit the number of temporary foreign workers that employers hire each year, the costs of the Labour Market Opinion process will not be subsidized by taxpayers and there will instead be a fee of $275 per temporary foreign worker application that is submitted for processing.

Some of the other newly implemented reforms to the TFWP include:

  • “Introducing a moratorium on accelerated Labour Market Opinions.
  • Requiring employers to pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage.
  • Allowing the Government to suspend, revoke or refuse to process Temporary Foreign Worker applications in order to better protect the Canadian labour market.
  • Restricting the use of non-official languages as job requirements.
  • Increasing the length and reach of advertising required by employers to ensure no Canadians are available before they can turn to foreign workers” (Economic Action Plan 2014)

When applying Marxist legal theory to the situation of the TFWP, Karl Marx would, without a doubt, disagree with this program implemented by the federal government of Canada because he is a socialist who promotes the idea of public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange in a society. Canada is a Capitalist society which is an economic system consisting of private ownership of the means of production and the distribution of goods and commodities for personal profit. This occurs through the exploitation of working class people by the Capitalists, elites or the owners of these means of production such as tools, resources and technology. Marx would go on and say that these exploitative methods are being used by Capitalists or employers because he believes workers in Capitalist societies lose control over the things they create and are deemed worthless the more they produce value from their labour (Pavlich 2011:90). The Capitalists hire working class individuals who survive off of wages in exchange for their labour power to produce goods and commodities for the Capitalists. These goods and commodities have a use value and an exchange value which is determined by the amount of labour power that is put in and invested by the workers who produce them. These workers are paid a lot less than what their labour value is actually worth. In other words, the Capitalists essentially steal money and make profit off of their employees by paying them wages that are not equivalent to their labour power value; this is known as surplus value. These workers are merely treated as instruments that produce wealth in a Capitalist society but Marx believes that this exploitation can be eliminated with the existence of a socialist or communist society where every individual puts in an equal share of labour power and are valued the same (Pavlich 2011: 93).

In real life context, there is evidence of documents showing that the Canadian government was involved in granting many Canadian firms the right to bring in foreign workers and pay them less than the prevailing wages in their respective jobs. Specifically, the Alberta Federation of Labour obtained these internal government documents through an Access to Information request where they discovered these findings. The labour group says that by sanctioning the underpayment of thousands of workers, it helped bring down the overall wages in many industries, especially the food services sector (Sanctioned by Harper government). “What was supposed to be a minor shuffling of jobs has, instead, become a raging scandal that has exposed how far the capitalist class is willing to go to undermine workers’ wages and rights — and all of it openly supported by the federal government”. In addition, “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) was originally created to supposedly help fill labour shortages in Canada, especially in cases where skilled positions could not be filled by existing Canadian workers.  In reality, the program has been an opening for the bosses to further push down wages for all workers, in addition to massively exploiting foreign workers who are not subject to the same labour laws as their Canadian counterparts.. The ruling class’ dirty little secret been laid bare for all to see” (End the Temporary Foreign Worker Program).

CBC News (2014, August 15). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Sanctioned by Harper government http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/temporary-foreign-worker-program-misuse-sanctioned-by-harper-government-union-says-1.2737422

Cahis, C. (2013, April 30). Retrieved October 13, 2014, from End the Temporary Foreign Worker Program http://www.marxist.ca/labour/labour-news/874-end-the-temporary-foreign-worker-program-good-enough-to-work-good-enough-to-stay.html

Canada’s Economic Action Plan. Retrieved October 13, 2014, from Economic Action Plan 2014 http://actionplan.gc.ca/en/initiative/temporary-foreign-worker-program

Employment and Social Development Canada (2014, July 21). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Overhauling the temporary http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/foreign_workers//index.shtml

Wikipedia (2014, August 24). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Temporary Foreign Worker Program http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporary_foreign_worker_program_in_Canada#2013

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Marxist context

  1. You provide an excellent overview of the TFWP and the recent controversy surrounding it.

    Your analysis is good, though your second-last paragraph focuses on a Marxist understanding of labour relations in general, as opposed to the specific dynamics of the TFWP. Your final paragraph touches on the particular issues arising from the TFWP.

    What is the role of law in this situation? That is, how would a Marxist legal theorist explain the legal dimensions of the TFWP?