Beef up B.C. training programs before turning to temporary foreign workers
B.C. Premier Christy Clark. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)
Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on farmland was Laila with 72%.
This week’s topic:
Should temporary foreign workers be allowed in B.C.'s LNG industry?
For a premier so committed to providing jobs for British Columbians, the irony of Christy Clark’s trip to Ottawa — liquefied natural gas industry executives in tow — in part to ensure the federal government would continue its controversial Temporary Foreign Worker Program, is stark.
It’s a bright red flag waving in the faces of all Canadians when two levels of government sign an agreement that relies on a program that is rife with blatant abuse and exploitation.
Wherever you look in B.C., you will find temporary foreign workers. They pick crops, build our transportation systems and fill jobs in remote locations. More often than not, they are significantly underpaid, bereft of benefits and exploited in working conditions regular workers wouldn’t tolerate. They rarely speak up, unless conditions are so bad or unfair that to remain silent is not an option.
Clearly, the premier didn’t do her homework when it comes to her own government’s record for skills training in this province. In 2004, the BC Liberals dismantled the Industry Training and Apprentice Commission and replaced it with the Industry Training Authority. The new authority laid off apprenticeship counsellors, put more emphasis on apprentices managing themselves, and cut funding hours for training programs, according to the Federal of Post-secondary Educators of B.C.
The result, according to the BC NDP, was a significant drop in the overall completion percentage rate of apprentices, even though the number of students graduating had increased. While the province has a significant number of apprentices, they aren’t able to find the hours they need to complete their apprenticeships. Some say that’s because companies prefer to bring in foreign workers — who they pay lower wages — and the government continues to allow them to do so.
The Canadian Labour Congress agrees, and came forward recently to say temporary foreign workers are not the solution to the LNG industry. Senior economist Angela MacEwan states that as long as companies are allowed to use TFW, there is no incentive to invest in training workers, or for government to invest in apprenticeship programs. With so little program oversight, it’s easy for companies to circumvent hiring locals.
With so many British Columbians out of work, I don’t support this program. Specifically speaking to skilled labour, it pains me to see so many youth enter trades apprenticeships who can’t complete them.
It’s time for Clark to show her own government will invest in B.C. workers by mandating the use of apprentices in all B.C. projects, fixing the Industry Training Authority and saying no to the use of TFW in the LNG industry.
Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.
Who wins this week's duel on Temporary Foreign Workers being allowed in B.C.'s LNG industry?