Sunday, December 15, 2013

Canadian workers f@cked again!

Just happened to be reading about a mid-sized welding shop in North Bay that recently brought in a couple of guys from Tunisia, because apparently there are no qualified welders available in Canada.


In the first place, there's plenty of folks among the 1.5 million unemployed Canadians who have those skills.

Furthermore, it's a very long way from rocket science to train up welders. If this government had the slightest interest in training unemployed Canadians, they could implement a training program at minimal cost that would have welder-helpers earning their keep within a few weeks, welder apprentices within a few months, and high-end welder-fitters within a couple of years.

We've got the training infrastructure available in high-school shops and community colleges. What we don't have is the political will. That's because political will in our government is shaped by the will of the Canadian Manufacturers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and believe it or not those folks don't have much in the way of over-lapping interests with unemployed or underemployed Canadian workers.

What they are after is cheap labour. The government connives with them by establishing the incredibly opaque "Labour Market Opinion" as the magic key that opens Canadian jobs to foreign workers. All the employer needs to do is fill out a few forms to prove that they've tried really hard to find skilled welders in Canada for $16 dollars an hour with no luck, and therefore need to hire from outside the country.

Some cubicle lifer with a BA in sociology, toiling away deep in the bowels of Citizenship and Immigration, who doesn't know shit when it comes to skilled work, gives the application a cursory once-over. She has no clue that $16 hasn't been the "prevailing wage" for skilled welders since the mid-eighties.

Bingo! The rubber stamp comes down and the employer has the green light to bring in those keeners from Tunisia.

Sixteen bucks an hour is serious money in Tunisia.

Here's a telling headline from CTV News; Temporary Foreign Workers debate shines light on labour shortage in mining industry.

What's the debate? There's a one sided drone of platitudes from various employer lobby groups about how we've neglected training skilled trades. They've been complaining about it as long as they've been bringing in foreign workers; it's cheaper to complain than to train!

The employers as a whole (I know there are some exceptional employers who invest mightily in Canadians, but they are the exceptions) would prefer to see the foreigners come in, because a trained Canadian is going to want to work for a Canadian standard of living. The Tunisian is going to be happy with $16/hr, and he's already got the skill set! See why this is a win-win for the employers?

It's also a win-win for the government. They save those training funds while at the same time appeasing their corporate backers.

Contrary to what that headline would lead you to believe, there is scarcely a debate, nor is there a shortage of skilled workers in the mining industry. What there is, is a concerted and coordinated push by employers and government to drive down the wages of Canadians.

Here's another headline, this time from Fort Mac a couple of months ago; 300 Canadians replaced by Temporary Foreign Workers. There was no national outrage over this story like there was when the Royal Bank got caught playing the same game. There was no shortage of skilled workers; these Canadian welders and pipe-fitters already had the jobs and have been displaced by foreign workers.

And where is organized labour in all this? We don't hear a lot from them, do we? Sure, go to any union's home page and they'll be flat out against the TFW program, but where are the demonstrations in the streets? Those 300 Fort Mac guys could and should shut down the Husky project. We no longer have principled union leadership like we had in the day of C.S. Jackson and Bob White. What we have now is union bureaucrats who think getting their former members a better severance package when their jobs are off-shored or handed to foreign workers is all that is required of them.

If we continue on the road we're on, in a few short years our "labour market" will be the plaything of international labour brokers, and secure jobs at a decent wage for Canadians will be but a distant memory.

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