Canadian workers first

Almost 30 years at her job apparently wasn’t enough to prevent Sandy Nelson from being replaced by the Harper government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Almost 30 years at her job apparently wasn’t enough to prevent Sandy Nelson from being replaced by the Harper government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The Weyburn, Sask., restaurant that fired Nelson and several other servers last month is now under investigation by Employment and Social Development Canada.

After CBC broke the story on Monday, the owners of Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza issued a statement that they were acting within the rules.

Really? The rules allow Canadian employees to be fired, or laid off, and replaced by federal government-approved workers from outside Canada?

Nelson, who is 58, told CBC that all waiters received discharge letters in March. Some were offered their jobs back, including two temporary foreign workers.

Nelson says she doesn’t understand how it could be that she had to look for a new job while foreign workers are still employed at the establishment.

Needless to say, public response on social media has been quick and, by far, full of condemnation.

On the Brother’s Classic Grill and Pizza Facebook page: “Canada will eat someplace else” and “You should be ashamed of yourselves” were familiar sentiments.

With a population of about 10,000, everybody in Weyburn would have heard this story by the end of the day.

The restaurant has joined a growing list of businesses being investigated by Employment and Social Development Canada for alleged abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Just a week ago, an expanded investigation began into several McDonald’s franchises.

A woman who worked at a Parksville, B.C., McDonald’s for 24 years said she was forced out of her job when temporary workers were hired. The federal government has suspended pending foreign work permits in Victoria, pending an investigation.

A McDonald’s scheduling manager in Lethbridge who quit said he was told to give full-time shifts to foreign workers first.

A group of oilpatch workers in the Fort McMurray area were let go earlier this year and replaced with temporary foreign workers (TFWs), apparently for a much lower hourly rate.

There are several hundred thousand TFWs in the country now. As more and more Canadians step forward to complain about their jobs being lost, there’s a good chance some of the anger will be misdirected at those workers who come here from other parts of the world.

TFWs have their own valid issues, such as the difficulty of trying to qualify for citizenship, obtaining proper housing and being afraid to speak out against any employer abuse because they don’t want to be sent home.

While some employers may argue TFWs are more productive or reliable than Canadian workers, is it because they fear losing their jobs here?

Really, the anger should be directed at those employers who abuse the program. And just how “temporary” are foreign workers when employers are replacing Canadian workers, and offering the foreign workers better hours, shifts and even pay?

Canadians must get first crack at jobs, they should not be losing their jobs to foreign workers, and if we see continuing abuses of the TFW program, it’s time to shut the program down.

Canadians who are losing their jobs because of the program have to speak up, like Nelson did.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney has told companies not to expect the program and immigration administrators to solve their labour shortages, and that they should consider paying (Canadian) workers more and spending more into skills training.

Why would they as long as they have the Temporary Foreign Workers Program?

Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at barr@bprda.wpengine.com or by phone at 403-314-4332.

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