Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Employment & Labour

Educate foreign workers on their rights: Zeilikman

As the federal government moves toward a crackdown on abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, education must also be kept in mind as being part of the solution, says Toronto employment lawyer Arthur Zeilikman.

In its recently tabled omnibus budget bill, the Conservative government proposed significant penalties for companies caught abusing the system, CTV reports.

While the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is meant to fill “genuine and acute labour needs” in Canada, concerns exist that some employers opt for cheaper labour rather than hiring unemployed Canadians, the report says, noting the new proposed fines are expected to be in place by early 2015.

“Various mechanisms in the law already exist to protect employees throughout Canada,” says Zeilikman, of Zeilikman Law. “The problem with foreign workers is that they are often unaware of the rights they actually have. They also often come from countries where employment and labour laws are not as progressive as they are in Canada. This causes workers to think that their treatment is legal when it is not.”

When it comes to imposing heftier fines, Zeilikman says, “At the end of the day, while penalties may be warranted in the appropriate circumstances, without educating foreign workers as to their rights, it would be difficult to deter wrongdoings. Until foreign workers feel empowered enough to seek legal help or representation, their work conditions will largely remain undetected.”

Concerns over employers’ motivations behind hiring foreign workers may have value, says Zeilikman, but “as long as employers go through the proper steps of offering available positions to Canadians, employers are free to hire foreign workers and pay minimum wage in compliance with statutory standards."

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