Meat is shown in a grocery store in Toronto on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. 

Meat packers call for changes to foreign worker cap to address labour shortage crisis

CALGARY — Canadian meat packers say they are dealing with a labour shortage crisis and must be allowed to bring in more temporary foreign workers.

The Canadian Meat Council says there are more than 4,000 empty butcher stations at packing plants countrywide.

That works out to an average job vacancy rate of more than 10 per cent. Two plants in Quebec are near 40 per cent, while one in Alberta has a 20 per cent vacancy rate.

The Canadian Meat Council is asking Ottawa to raise the cap on the percentage of foreign workers a plant can employ to 30 per cent. Right now, temporary foreign workers can make up no more than 10 or 20 per cent of a meat plant’s workforce, depending on the facility.

Canada brought in major reforms to its temporary foreign worker program in 2014. The changes were meant to crack down on reported abuse of the program by some employers.

But the Canadian Meat Council says it can’t find enough Canadians who want to be butchers. It says an ongoing shortage of labour gets in the way of growth for Canada’s agriculture industry.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press