International Workers’ Day: NFU Speaks Out Against the Expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and Calls for Justice for Migrant Workers

MAY 1, 2022

On International Workers’ Day, the National Farmers Union is in solidarity with all who contribute their labour to feeding our communities and who collectively struggle for labour justice.

This May Day the NFU’s Migrant Worker Solidarity Working Group highlights our concerns regarding the federal government’s recent expansion of the low-wage migrant worker program, and calls for permanent residency for all migrant workers.  Migrant workers provide essential labour in Canada, and deserve the same opportunities, rights, and protections as any other workers in our country.

In April, Ottawa instituted changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), including: a) the removal of the limits of the number of low-wage positions that can be filled in seasonal industries, like farming and fish and seafood processing; b) an increase in the maximum duration of these positions to up to 270 days per year; c) the ability to hire up to 30% of the workforce in seven employment sectors for low-wage positions; and d) in the accommodation and Food Services and Retail Trade sectors, the removal of the policy that restricted TFW applications for low-wage occupations where the unemployment rate is 6% or higher.

The NFU recognizes that there are labour shortages in key industries, including farming and food processing, but expanding the low-wage TFWP increases the ability of businesses to extract cheap labour from vulnerable people who have been deliberately disempowered through the denial of citizenship and basic labour rights. The TFWP needs deep changes, not expansion, especially during a time of skyrocketing inflation and record profits for large corporate food producers, processors, and distributors.  Farm work is skilled and demanding work, and building a reliable, permanent, and secure workforce should be the goal of any immigration program that is bringing farm workers to Canada.  Migrant farm workers, and all workers deserve safe and secure work, living wages, and clear and timely pathways to permanent residency. 

Expanding a program that is unjust — that denies participants pathways to citizenship and the rights afforded to other workers in Canada — is not a good policy and discriminates against lower-waged temporary foreign workers.

We appeal to our government and policymakers to revise the unjust TFWP so that workers have a decent livelihood and are valued as human beings and for their work and the collective benefits their work provides.