Raising wages for workers in the temporary foreign workers program and increasing the fees paid by companies is a good start, but does nothing to make the workers any less vulnerable, Unifor National President Jerry Dias says.
"This program takes advantage of the desperation of workers in other countries, forcing them to leave their families for jobs in Canada," Dias said, adding that promises to crack down on abuses of the program don't address its fundamental problems.
Dias called for the program to transition into one that allows the workers involved to stay in Canada permanently. Canada has a long and proud history of people coming here to build a better life for their families, said Dias.
"The difference is that they could build that life with their families. The workers in this program deserve the same opportunity," Dias said. "If they are good enough to work here, they are good enough to live here with their families."
Workers in the program can only stay in Canada as long as their work permits allow. They cannot bring their families with them, and most are barred from applying for citizenship. If they lose their jobs, they face being told to leave the country.
Dias called on the Harper government to allow any temporary foreign workers already in Canada, or who have arranged to come, to apply to immigrate permanently.
"Part of making this fair is to ensure that the workers already involved with the program are treated fairly and given the opportunity to come to Canada permanently - with their families," Dias said.
As well, Dias said, workers in the program should have full access to the same rights and protections in Canadian law as all workers in this country.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.