Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program – Launching of the Recognized Employer Pilot Program (REP)

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Migrant Workers

The Honourable Randy Boissonnault, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages

Dear Minister Boissonnault,

On behalf of Unifor, Canada’s largest labour union in the private sector, I would like to express our deep concern regarding your Ministry’s decision to re-launch Recognized Employer Pilot Program (REP) within the Federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Expanding employer access to Canada’s TFWP, particularly in low-wage sectors, will not only leave precarious migrant workers open to greater abuse and exploitation by employers and recruiters, but negatively impact working conditions for all workers across the country.

As a union, we are well aware of continued claims made by employers around so-called “labour shortages”. While we recognize that certain industries have legitimate difficulty in securing skilled workers, we find that many employers are doing little by way of improving wages and working conditions to attract local workers. This fact is supported by research conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives which recently found that, despite the public outcry by employers about their dire need for workers, job postings continue to advertise wages that are well below worker expectations.

As a result, low-wage employers are developing an over-reliance on the TFWP and the growing number of Canadian temporary migrant worker streams, such as the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, International Mobility Program and International Student Program. The fact that the same employers repeatedly turn to the program year after year to secure workers puts in question the “temporary” nature of this program. If these employers are indeed in regular (i.e. permanent) need of migrant workers, then these workers should be offered permanent residency status in order to allow them to stay in Canada, bring their families and build their lives in this country.

In addition, if the federal government is serious about ensuring employment vacancies are being filled, then rather than introducing pilot programs that simply entrench precarious employment by enabling easier access to a disposable workforce, you must first provide greater security to the nearly 1.7 million temporary and undocumented migrants that are already living and working in Canada who have fallen through the cracks of the many temporary migrant programs.

Furthermore, despite the government’s assertion that temporary migrant workers have full access to rights as Canadian or permanent residency workers, we know that is not the case. Migrant workers in Canada continue to report having their basic employment standards and rights violated—from unpaid wages and illegal deductions to hours of work and health and safety infractions. The federal government’s own website lists hundreds of employers who have been found to be non-compliant with the rules governing the TFWP and who have received either monetary penalties or been banned from the program.

Unifor would like to reiterate the policy demands being echoed across the country by labour, community and migrant rights advocates. Firstly, the federal government must follow through on its commitment outlined in the Prime Minister’s 2021 mandate letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and immediately implement an open and inclusive regularization program to ensure migrant workers already in Canada without immigration status are granted full permanent residency status. Secondly, ensure that all migrant workers arriving to Canada are also granted permanent residency status upon arrival. This is the only way to ensure that these workers can assert their rights in the workplace without fear of job loss or reprisals.

Canada cannot continue building an economy based on insecure, exploitative and precarious labour. This not only harms the integrity of Canada’s economy and labour market, but also the communities where these workers live. We must ensure that federal employment and immigration programs work cooperatively to benefit workers, and not solely employers who desire constant “flexibility” at the expense of worker well-being and security.

We wish to thank you for your time and consideration on this serious matter and would be happy to arrange a meeting with you and your staff to discuss this issue further.


Lana Payne
Unifor National President

CC: Honourable Marc Miller, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada