Tag Archives: Temporary Foreign Worker Program

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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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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