Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A REFLECTION ON FOREIGN WORKERS

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" I believe- like all the staff here at the Wabush Hotel 
and you have more working at Tim Horton's-they 
are really hard workers. Most times, immigrants in
 general are very dedicated to their jobs and 
very loyal to their employers so it might be a good
 option."

Julia Greenwood,
(than) Human Resources, Labour and Employment 
The Aurora
June 10th, 2010
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News that Quinlan Brothers recruited about 20 Thai workers to process crab and shrimp at its plant in Bay de Verde is making more than a few people in this province, and Canada, shake their collective heads.

Despite a gain in the Employment numbers in Newfoundland and Labrador,  the unemployment rate was 13.5% in April, up 0.2 percentage points from April 2011. According to the Department of Finance, the number of people employed totaled 226,100 – representing an increase of 5,200 persons or 2.4% relative to April 2011.

Stats Canada's seasonally adjusted, unemployment rate for Newfoundland and Labrador in May was 12.2%(13%). Our have not province still leads the other nine provinces in unemployment. Our sister provinces in Atlantic Canada fared a little better Prince Edward Island 11.0% (11.3%) ,Nova Scotia 9.0%, (8.3%)  New Brunswick 9.8% (10.2%).*

How is it, that in a province with an unemployment rate of  13.5%, that employers are forced to import labor from Thailand to work in fish plants?

If it is any solace, we are not alone. Fish plants in the other Atlantic provinces have been importing foreign workers for quite some time now. Derek Butler, Executive Director of the Association of Seafood Producers told CBC news that seafood processing companies in the Maritimes have for years imported workers to keep their operations running, with more than half the workforce at plants in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island coming from either other provinces or outside Canada altogether.

 In fact, this current infusion of foreign workers might have captured the headlines but foreign workers have been coming to this province to fill lower income jobs for some time now.  Restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and grocery stores in Labrador have been hired dozens of Filipinos over the last few years. For these people, they are living the dream doing jobs that a whole lot people in this province could be doing, but they prefer government assistance.

That said, the provincial government has been making the rounds throughout the province promoting the process of hiring international workers to meet "labor shortages".

 A few years ago, while visiting Ireland, there was a similar debate going on in that country. Despite high unemployment rates in rural areas 159,300 non-nationals were working in Ireland. They made up 8% of the total workforce. The major sectors where employment of Irish workers fell was manufacturing, hotels, the service industry and agriculture.

 I can't fully understand how we need to import workers for very simple tasks like serving coffee and cleaning tables at the buffet.

We must take steps to ensure that every possible effort is made by employers, and government,  to find suitably skilled employees from within the existing labour markets. People need to make livable wages, if they are going to relocate, or commute for minimum wage jobs.

Here is a futuristic proposition, what happens when professional salaries get too high and the tax rates needed to generate income make it "uncompetitive"  to offer doctors, lawyers, nurses, police and teaches salaries that will keep them in this province. Will we be importing for these professions as well? It may sound like a strange proposal but if we could entice "foreign workers" to do the work for cheaper, the government payout would be less and at less we would be “enriched” after all…..

It is a slippery slope. Do we have a plan? Nope, like the paper mills, it is what it is!



*previous month in brackets

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