Marxist Legal Theory and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program

The Temporary Foreign Workers Program was developed by the Federal government of Canada to allow people coming into Canada on a temporary basis, the ability to be able to work during their time here. However, there has recently been much controversy and public outcry from Canadian citizens. Many of them argue that they are unable to obtain jobs because employers have been giving foreign workers preferential treatment during the hiring process. They have done so by choosing to employ foreigners over Canadian citizens because of the financial benefit that is gained by doing so. They argue that this had lead to an outsourcing of what should be Canadian jobs for Canadians. As a result, the Federal government of Canada has decided to make some changes to the policies of the program. The recent reforms have been implemented in order to give Canadian Citizens have the chance to be hired for new jobs as soon as they become available on the job market. This is said to be done so that opportunity is given to temporary foreign workers only after Canadian citizens have received a chance to be hired. To execute this plan, the following steps of reform were taken in 2013:
1. Introducing a moratorium on accelerated labour Market Opinions.
2. Requiring employers to pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage.
3. Allowing the Government to suspend, revoke or refuse to process Temporary Foreign Worker applications in order to better protect the Canadian labour market.
4. Restricting the use of non-official languages as job requirements.
5. Increasing the length and reach of advertising required by employers to ensure no Canadians are available before they can turn to foreign workers.

Over the span of two years, the Canadian government is planning to invest 11 million dollars over the span of two years towards this initiative. An additional 3.5 million is said to be spent each of those years to strengthen Canada’s labour market. The program is called, the “Economic Action Plan 2014”. The reforms to the program will make it so that job requirements will make it so that workers have to be able to speak either English or French. Some other changes are all follows: employers will be required to pay fees in order to process Labour Market Opinions (LMO’s), employers will be asked questions to ensure that the program is not used to support the outsourcing of Canadian jobs, and work permit fees will be raised so that taxpayers no longer have to subsidize those costs.

Karl Marx would be strongly opposed to this plan as he is a political economist who believes that in order for a Capitalist society (whether it be contemporary or feudalistic) to work and be functional, it NEEDS people who are unemployed. In his very influential theory, Marx talks about the two things that need to be in place in any society at any given time: The means of production (the tools, materials, technologies that are involved in how that particular society at that time produces) and The social relations of production (How people organize themselves to produce CLASS structure). He argues that people, in order to SURVIVE must sell their labour. The rise of capitalism completely changed the role of the workers (the subordinate class). Now it is about your investment of labour power and time, which you are paid for. What you produce in that context does not belong to you; there is a level of exploitation involved in the process that he argues is both necessary and natural. To create surplus value, Marx says exploitation has to exist. Marx does not want to suggest that the situation is extremely unfair to the workers, he is simply saying that in order for a capitalist system to work, the workers must participate. He thinks it is important and that there is a real value in paying workers enough to keep them happy and productive. They would only participate if they thought it was fair to them. Now in our contemporary economy, we cannot really talk about the economy of the society of the lower mainland because most of the stuff we use and wear was not produced here, but IS CONSUMED here. It is just that we have extended the entire production process to a global level which is really interesting because you get this incredibly split hierarchy of class where the people actually producing products do not even make enough to afford the products they produce, whereas we who are involved in a more knowledge based economy are distanced from that actual base level production. Marx would say that this is even more intensified now in our Contemporary Capitalist Society. The people who have a lot right now have more than they have ever had historically and vice versa; the level of inequality is much greater than it would be in a feudal society. Marx would point out that now economies are not necessarily driven by production but by finance. He would say that allowing temporary foreigners to work in Canada and have the same opportunity (if not more opportunity) to the jobs is only beneficial to sustain this capitalist society in which a hierarchy must exist where a very small number of people make the vast majority of money and the rest of society contributes to the economy by either being a part of the working class or the unemployed.

The following links provide some more information and detail about the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. There is also a video addressing some of the public concern and the government’s responses to it.



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3 responses to “Marxist Legal Theory and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program

  1. aaronkpu

    This is a great post! I love how you tie in globalization and how economic factors play a role.

  2. This is a detailed and effective analysis.

    Question: Many of the workers in the TFWP were employed in service sector positions (ex. fast food). The clientele of these businesses is largely composed of Canadian citizens. How might a Marxist legal theorist explain the relationship between the working-class Tim Horton’s customer purchasing a double-double and the foreign worker preparing the beverage? What role does ideology play in this relationship?