Canada’s Largest Private-Sector Union Blasts Harper for RBC Debacle

ufcw canada largest private sector union rbc migrant

"In this Conservative scheme everyone is victimized," says UFCW Canada leader

Toronto, Ont. —  April 9, 2013 — UFCW Canada, the country’s largest private-sector union and Canada’s leading national voice for migrant and temporary foreign workers, is joining the groundswell of Canadians in expressing frustration and outrage over the federal government’s latest failure to protect the well-being of Canadian workers, while further victimizing Canada’s most precarious workforce.

“This shameful deceit is just another example of how the Harper government's temporary foreign worker programs were designed to benefit a handful of wealthy companies and Harper’s super-rich corporate friends," says Wayne Hanley, the national president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada), representing more than a quarter of a million workers from coast to coast.

"For RBC to claim that this was a supplier's decision displays their lack of corporate governance and is the same kind of toxic, anti-worker environment the Harper government constantly holds up as their formula for a 'successful' Canada. In this Conservative scheme everyone is victimized."

For more than two decades, UFCW Canada has been the leading national advocate for the reform of migrant and temporary foreign worker programs. The union is also the author a leading Canadian report on the Status of Migrant Workers in Canada.

"Given what we know now, the RBC case is more than just a case of migrant workers being hired to do the work of Canadians," says Hanley. "The workers couldn't have been hired without the employer proving they didn't have Canadians to do the job. That is the case in some sectors, but clearly not here. Either the government turned a blind eye, or the job search data supplied by the employer to show it couldn't find qualified Canadians was bogus. Which is it?"

Recently, Diane Finley, the federal Minister of Human Resources, met with advocacy and labour groups to review foreign worker programs administered by her department, "where we made it clear that the system has been broken for decades," says Naveen Mehta, UFCW Canada's general counsel, and director of human rights. "The RBC case is just the latest example of a shameless system without controls, where corporations only do what is right for them."

In 2012, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada exceeded the number of landed immigrants. "In some sectors, there may be shortages of Canadian workers able to fill positions but typically, unless they are working in a union environment, the workers brought in to do the work are grossly exploited and often treated like indentured servants," says Mehta.

"Any talk by Harper and his government to fix this has been just talk. The reality is they have engineered a program that leads to a low wage economy, where the rights of both domestic and foreign workers are trashed to bolster the corporate bottom line."