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Weyburn restaurant faces backlash over foreign workers

Labour minister asked to investigate
Reported by Andrew Shepherd
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Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney has been asked to investigate a restaurant in Weyburn, where two waitresses say they lost their jobs to temporary foreign workers.

One of the waitresses is Sandy Nelson, who has worked at the restaurant for 28 years and says she was told previously by the owners that she would always have a job there. She wasn’t worried at first when she was told some staff would be invited to come back and work at the restaurant after its makeover. But she says the Canadian workers were not rehired.

“I want justice, I want the abuses of this program to be on record, I want monitoring systems to be set up so this type of thing doesn’t happen to people,” Nelson said.

The story has sparked a major public back-lash against the restaurant on social media. Many people commenting on the Brothers Classic Grill Facebook page that they should expect a boycott.

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President wants to see program scrapped

Larry Hubich, President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour calls the temporary foreign workers program an embarrassing black eye in Canada.  He says he has no doubt the program is being abused and he wants it scrapped in favour of a program that encourages proactive immigration. His comments come after recently fired Canadian workers claim temporary foreign workers took their jobs at Brothers Classic Grill in Weyburn.

Hubich says the program not only creates an environment where many workers in Saskatchewan are losing out on hours, but it also treats the foreign workers like slaves. He believes employers are abusing the program and the governments, both federal and provincial, are not doing their job enforcing it.

"Politicians who suggest that it's not a serious problem are only pandering the businesses that want this pool of cheap labour," he said.
Under the rules of the program, employers must seek Canadians first when filling positions but if no Canadians want the job, they can apply to hire a temporary foreign worker.

However, Hubich says that doesn't always happen. He estimates there are 450,000 temporary foreign workers in the country right now. He says the program was intended for highly skilled workers that aren't sufficiently trained in Saskatchewan, but says a significant number of those foreign employees are working in the fast food and hospitality sector.

"There are pockets of areas where it's hard to recruit but the answer isn't to open the floodgates to a temporary foreign worker program that results in workers being abused and Canadian citizens being routinely bypassed for positions that are available."

Response from Federal Employment Minister

Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney was not available for an interview with News Talk Radio but an email response was sent from his office.

“Our Government will not tolerate any abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Our message to employers is clear and unequivocal - Canadians must always be first in line for available jobs,” it stated.

The email went on to say that any allegations of abuse from the TFW program will be vigorously investigated. If any employer is found to have lied on the application about efforts to hire Canadian workers, they can face fines or jail time along with other sanctions against the business itself.

The statement from Kenney’s office also noted that the government has made reforms to the TFW program to ensure that Canadians are the first choice to hire. Reforms to the program include conducting on-site inspections and imposing fines and adding employers to a black list if they are found to be in violation. The rules also require employers to pay TFWs at the prevailing wage and increasing fees for work permits.  The email went on to say that the program is currently under review.

Edited with files from Canadian Press and CJME's Jill Smith
Twittter: @Andrew5hepherd and @genericjill